Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.
When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves–Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer–as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery.
The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.
The two main characters, Mishi and Taka are both magic users in a world where women who wield magic are considered dangerous. Women are allowed to be healers and midwives, but to be a full-blown Kisoshi is forbidden. It’s believed that women are too weak of character and mind to be able to control magic. Women are “easily corruptible” and will inevitably turn to “evil”. Both characters were raised together in an orphanage but not a lot of time is spent exploring that aspect before they are separated in the first couple of chapters. Taka goes to a midwifery school that has many dark secrets, and the Mishi ends up at a kisoshi school where she trains her powers in secret with the other girls. One grows into a powerful healer while the other trains up her combative skills to become a warrior. Despite their young age Mishi and Taka are generally more mature than I’d expect of young kids. I have a tendency to get annoyed by very immature characters so I was glad that wasn’t the case here.
In this world the kami are real and there are kami for all sorts of things from dragons to trees. The magic is more on the mysterious side of things rather than a set structure but there are rough rules. Some people are able to heal, others are able to use telepathic like powers, but it’s all linked back to elemental powers and manipulation (fire, air, water). It’s rare, but sometimes people are able to use more than one kind of elemental magic. There’s also a bit of celestial influence given that women’s magic is linked to the moon and men’s magic is linked to the sun. The closer the moon or sun is to the planet the stronger men/women’s magic becomes. Japanese honorifics and terminology were used throughout and had I not already read and adjusted to these terms in Sword of Kaigen this may have been a slower read for me.
Since the writing got out of the way of the story I was able to get through this one quickly, it only took me only a day or two to read it. In the glossary section, it tells you that the Japanese language does not pluralize using an “s” so things like “three kimono…” instead of “kimonos” were going to appear throughout the book. It’s good I read this or it would have really irked me and it could have potentially tanked the writing score. The pacing was alright, the ending was packed up a bit too quickly with some things that were a bit too convenient for my taste, but it wasn’t so convenient that I was super disappointed with how it ended.
I’m not sure if I would qualify this as young adult or not, I’m notoriously terrible at making the distinction between what is and isn’t “Young Adult”. What I can say is that this was on the shorter side (under 400 pgs), the characters are young, there’s a school trope complete with a school bully, training sequences, next to no cursing, and the writing is straightforward without a lot of flowery or descriptive passages. Perhaps this is YA? Perhaps not because there’s an off-page rape of one of the girl’s friends? But, I’ve seen that before in YA – so, who knows! There are definitely grimmer aspects to this book but I wouldn’t describe it as one of the darkest things I’ve ever read.
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 11/15
- World Building: 12.75/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 10.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6.25/10
Final Score: 74/100 or 7.4/10 for SPFBO