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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
by Nahoko Uehashi
Age Range: 12+
In a land reminiscent of ancient Japan which is populated by the indigenous Yakoo people and the ruling immigrant Yogo, the folklore of both peoples tells of a child and Water Spirit although the details differ. For the Yogo, the child was possessed by a water demon, while for the Yakoo, the Water Spirit was essential to prevent a terrible drought. Now, it appears that this spirit has returned.
Prince Chagum is Moribito the Guardian of the Spirit chosen to deliver the precious egg to the Water Spirit’s home in the distant sea. If he fails, the consequences will be dire for the land of New Yogo. Balsa is a bodyguard-for-hire – she is master of the short spear and expert in the martial arts, dazzling even her opponents with her fearlessness in combat. Chagum's mother prevails upon Balsa to protect her son as she believes he is in imminent danger.
On their action-packed journey they learn more about the Water Spirit and the secret history of the empire as they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies; the egg-eating monster, Rarunga and the prince’s own father who believes he must have his son assassinated to defeat the demon.
What is unusual about this book is that the protagonist is a woman in her thirties who is a professional bodyguard. Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi successfully weaves the intricate legends of the Yakoo and Yogo people with fine detail of the martial arts and their customs.
Expertly translated by award-winning translator Cathy Hirano, this is an epic martial arts fantasy that should appeal to fans of medieval and fantasy manga. Translated into many lanaguages it has been adapted for a major animated series.
Winner of the Mildred L. Bachelder Award 2009.