To save her friend and sister, a young girl embarks on a treacherous mission.
Just five years ago, the island of Midaga was protected by the Twelve, warriors endowed with a magical treasure and animal power from the Asian zodiac. But then the villainous Dragonlord took control, eliminating the Twelve and their apprentices, or Heirs. Since then, all individuals with zodiac powers have been hunted or forced into hiding. When Usagi’s sister, Uma, and friend Tora are kidnapped by the Dragonlord’s men due to their powers, she joins forces with a group of bandits who turn out to be renegade Heirs trained by the last surviving Warrior, Horangi the Tigress. Usagi, endowed with powers of the wood rabbit, finds herself torn: Should she immediately rescue her friend and sister or prove her worth by climbing Mount Jade and training to become an Heir? Rumors that the Dragonlord plans to execute his weak captives accelerate everything, cutting short her training and sending Usagi and the Heirs to infiltrate the Dragonlord’s lair. Although this fantasy is not based on a specific culture, the majority of characters’ names have East Asian derivations. Unfortunately, other aspects of the worldbuilding are not so solid. Oddly for a book set on an island, for instance, there’s no mention of the ocean or ports and very little consumption of seafood. Obstacles are frequent but resolve quickly, limiting suspense but keeping pages turning.
A mostly promising debut. (Fantasy. 8-12)