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Sunday September 28, 2008

Kingly quest

THE TWELVE KINGDOMS Vol.2: Sea of Wind
Story: Fuyumi Ono
Art: Akihiro Yamada
Publisher: Tokyopop; 317 pages
(ISBN: 978-1598169478)
For ages 13+

PARALLEL to our world is a place called Twelve Kingdoms, a world separated from ours by a mysterious kyoukai (barrier) called the Void Sea. It is home to many enchanted beasts and mythical creatures, and a place where magic reigns and technology is almost non-existent.

As its name suggests, the story is about 12 different kingdoms, each governed by a king chosen by a mythical being known as kirin.

These kirin exist for the sole purpose of electing a new king, and it is not uncommon to see one appear shortly after a monarch passes away. Sea of Wind chronicles the story of one such kirin: Taiki, of the Tai kingdom.

All kirin start life as an eggfruit hanging from a white tree in the middle of the Yellow Sea (a place inaccessible to the general populace of the Twelve Kingdoms). Said eggfruit would take around 10 months to hatch, and during this time, the kirin will be tended to by a guardian known as lamia.

Taiki, however, was different. While still in an eggfruit, he was violently snatched from the tree and separated from his lamia Sansi by a fierce storm known as shoku. So violent was the shoku that Taiki was carried over the Void Sea until he eventually ended up in our world.

When young Taiki is finally brought back to the Twelve Kingdoms, he has already spent 10 years in our world. As a result, he is clueless about the customs of the Twelve Kingdoms, and his mission or abilities. Faced with the task of picking a new king, will Taiki be able to discover his inner kirin?

Sea of Wind is an epic tale of identity, growing up and self-discovery. Readers are led down young Taiki’s path as he struggles to face his own destiny and discover his true identity. It is the second in a seven-book series by Fuyumi Ono, with the third book planned for release next year.

This was originally published in Japan as two volumes, but Tokyopop has combined the two as a single, hardcover volume, with the original illustrations intact. The translation by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander is smooth and compelling; even some Japanese kanji (Han characters) are maintained, with explanations provided in order to stay as close to the original as possible.

Sea of Wind is independent of the first novel Sea of Shadows (though they are set in the same world), so readers will be able to pick this off the shelf and plunge into the epic tale. Highly recommended for both fans and newcomers of the series.

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