Title: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (also known as Seirei no Moribito and Guardian of the Sacred Spirit)
Author: Nahoko Uehashi (English translation by Cathy Hirano)
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Published: June 2008 by Scholastic Inc.
The publisher rates it as suitable for ages 12 and up
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?
Here’s a synopsis from the publisher:
Above all, before everything, Balsa is a fighter. She protects children and adults, the rich and the poor, in a quest to redeem eight lives lost for her sake. She is a master of the short spear and expert in the martial arts, dazzling even her opponents with her fearlessness in combat.
And she will need every one of her skills in her latest job: guarding the Second Prince, Chagum. For the prince is the Moribito — the Guardian of the Spirit — chosen to deliver the egg of the Water Spirit to its home in the distant sea. If he fails, a drought will devastate the land of the New Yogo. But as Balsa and Chagum travel across the country, learning more about the spirit and the secret history of the empire, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster, Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.
A QUICK 411…. Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito) is the 1st of 10 books in the Moribito series written by Nahoko Uehashi. It was first published in Japan in 1996. It was translated into English by Cathy Hirano with illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, which was published in North America by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine in 2008. An anime adaptation was produced by Production IG and it aired in Japan in 2007.
The novel is divided into 3 parts and an epilogue. Part 1 (The Chrysalis) and Part 2 (Rarunga) have 5 chapters, while Part 3 (Midsummer’s Day) has 9 chapters. The Epilogue indicates that Balsa is going back to Kanbal — this will be the main story of the 2nd book in the series, Guardian of the Darkness (Yami no Moribito).
WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?
I first read this book in 2007. A good friend of mine from the U.S. bought it for me there and gave it to me as a birthday present.
I liked Balsa a lot. She’s become one of my favorite literary characters. Quick-thinking, resourceful, strong, kind, and a very skilled fighter, she’s a good example of “girl power.” I was rooting for Balsa and her childhood friend Tanda. I really liked them together. One of the bittersweet lines that I found memorable was uttered by Tanda: “If you can’t believe I could be that medicine, then there’s no point in waiting , is there?”
Of all the characters, I think Chagum had the most character development. From being a prince living in a palace, to being marked as some kind of fugitive and living on the run in the world of commoners, meeting new friends, learning how to rely on and trust Balsa and company as well as learning how to defend and take care of himself. His relationship with Balsa acting as his bodyguard and guardian mirrored Balsa’s relationship with Jiguro, the guardian and bodyguard who took care of her when she was a child. They may have been thrown in a situation and forced to stay together to survive, but they found that people you can call “friends” and “family” doesn’t always have to be someone you are related to by blood and may even be found in the most unexpected circumstances.
The book’s illustrations were done by Yuko Shimizu, and they were pretty good (although I am somewhat slightly partial to the character design by Gatou Asou that was used in the anime adaptation). The book also has some pretty classy page designs with a blue color theme, and a dark blue font to boot. It also has a helpful “list of characters” and “list of places and terms” in the latter pages of the book, followed by a note from the author.
TO WRAP IT UP… It’s actually quite a good read and I enjoyed it, although I might be a bit biased since I’m fond of reading children’s literature and I totally loved the animated series. I think the book’s age rating (12+) is appropriate enough. I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars in Goodreads. If you like fantasy/adventure books, I’d recommend you to read Moribito.
And if you enjoy watching anime, I strongly recommend watching the anime adaptation of Seirei no Moribito — it’s really, really good. Except for the anime-original episodes and a few other stuff that were changed, I think the anime adaptation was as faithful as it could be with the book.
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