[Book Review] Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness

Moribito_II_coverTitle: Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness (Moribito series, Book 2)
Author: Nahoko Uehashi (English translation by Cathy Hirano)
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Middle Grade/Young Adult
Published: May 2009 by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Inc.
Recommended for ages 12 and up
Source: Purchased

WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?

Here’s a synopsis from the publisher:

For many years, through countless fights, Balsa has survived. The evil King Rogsam tried to kill her when she was only six. Eight assassins pursued her in the long flight that followed. But her mentor, Jiguro, protected her until his death, and then Balsa became a bodyguard herself, helping other people survive the challenges they face. When she returns to her native country of Kanbal, she hopes to see Jiguro’s family and her own for the first time in many years. But what should be a simple visit of truth and reconciliation becomes a fight for her life when she learns that King Rogsam framed Jiguro for the deaths of the eight assassins—as well as a crime that threatens the very existence of Kanbal. With the help of two Kanbalese children, Balsa must unwind the conspiracy surrounding Jiguro and the mystery of the Guardians of the Darkness, before it’s too late.

A QUICK 411… This is the second of ten books in the Moribito series written by Nahoko Uehashi. It was translated from Japanese to English by Cathy Hirano with illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, which was published in North America by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine in 2008.

It picks up from where the first book, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito), left off. The Epilogue of which indicated that Balsa is going back to her native land of Kanbal to clear Jiguro’s (her foster father) name.

From the first book, we know that Balsa was forced to flee her native land at a very young age because of a political conspiracy that her father Karuna (physician to the king) got caught up in. He poisoned the king, as instructed by the king’s brother, Rogsam, who wanted to ascend to the throne. If Karuna does not comply, Rogsam will kill his daughter Balsa.

Being the evil guy that he is, Rogsam still ordered to have Balsa killed even after Karuna succeeded in poisoning the king. Karuna, knowing the tragic fate that had befallen him and his daughter, asked his friend Jiguro (the best of the King’s spearmen and martial arts instructor to the royal family) to protect Balsa and flee their land. Balsa and Jiguro manage to survive the assassins sent by evil King Rogsam. Jiguro eventually passes away from illness and Rogsam also dies. A few years later, Balsa decides its time to go home, see what has happened, and set the record straight. This is where this book begins, Balsa’s journey toward redemption for Jiguro.

WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?

The book is about betrayal, deception, courage, family, and good winning versus evil. It’s the touching yet tragic story of Balsa and Jiguro’s past that plays a big role in the attainment of a better future for their clans and country. It’s relatively fast-paced and has a well-established mythology, characters.

The first book and this second book are very good reads. Really. And I highly recommend them. It’s a pity the publisher decided not to translate the other books in the series. But don’t be dissuaded by this hiccup. The ending isn’t such a cliffhanger, so you won’t feel like you need to read the untranslated sequels.

If you’re interested in picking this up, I would advise you to read Book 1 first then Book 2, since there are references to events from Book 1 in this sequel.

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