Can humans bridge the gulf that separates them from beasts? Is it love that binds all sentient life—or fear?
In this translation of the first entry in international-award–winning Japanese author Uehashi’s (Moribito, 2014, etc.) hit series, 10-year-old Elin idolizes her mother, a skilled beast doctor for Toda, fearsome battle serpents. When some Toda die mysteriously, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death. Elin escapes and finds a kind beekeeper in the mountains who raises her as his own. As she grows into adulthood, she discovers her love for all living creatures and a unique gift for communicating with the magical Royal Beasts. But the nation’s political structure is fragile. Soon Elin is thrust into deadly civil conflict and must decide whether to use her beloved animal friends as tools of war. The author creates complex societies and fantastical creatures with imaginative, immersive detail. In a refreshing change for Western readers, the central issue hinges on neither individual power nor romantic love but kindness balanced against responsibility, and the narrative jumps among the perspectives of numerous characters in a more digressive style than they may be accustomed to. It’s lovely to watch Elin blossom from a quiet, curious child into a compassionate, thoughtful young woman with a steadfast moral compass—even if that compass sometimes leads her astray.
A richly detailed coming-of-age fantasy epic that rewards the patient and contemplative reader. (Fantasy. 13-adult)