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Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi
Translated by Cathy Hirano;
Cover Artist: Yuko Shimizu
Review by Sherin Nicole
Arthur A. Levine Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545005425
Date: 01 June 2008 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Balsa is a rarity, a formidable bodyguard who wields a spear and just happens to be a woman. The Second Prince Chagum of New Yogo has been graced with a rare honor. He has become the Moribito a vessel chosen to deliver the egg of the Water Spirit to its home in a far ocean. More unusual is the Mikado's order to destroy these three exceptional beings for the supposed good of his empire.

A few moments later or sooner and Balsa may never have crossed paths with Prince Chagum. But such was not the writ of destiny and when the child was tossed from his carriage into a surging river Balsa did not hesitate to jump in and save his life. Now their lives are inextricably joined. The Second Queen has forced the she-warrior to protect her son until the "demon" buried in his belly can be removed. None of this will be easy and their first, maybe only hope, is the missing Master Torogai, of the Yakoo, who is herself being pursued by the Mikado's council of Star Readers and Hunters.

"…I want you to know that the Yakoo regard Nyunga Ro Im as something very special. The child chosen to bear the egg was known as the Nyunga Ro Chago, The Guardian of the Spirit—or as you would call it, the Moribito…"
- Tanda of the Yakoo
After a thrilling escape and face-off with four Hunters, Balsa and Chagum find themselves recuperating in the home of Tanda, Balsa's longtime friend and possibly more. It is here that they begin to uncover the century old mystery of Nyunga Ro Im and the misunderstandings that separate the Yogoese and Yakoo people—but incomplete lore, Rarunga the egg-eating monster, and the twisting of fate will test them sorely; threatening not only their own lives but the well being of their homeland itself.

This is an adventure in the classic martial arts sense. It has skilled warriors, competing motives, chivalry, monsters, battles and magic all rolled up into a satisfying tale as much about the quest as it is the characters' growth: Balsa's need to forgive herself and save the lives of eight people; Chagum's struggle to forget the life he left behind, Torogai's insatiable thirst to learn more; Tanda's unyielding love; Shuga, the Star Reader's, search for balance between what he's been told and the truth he has begun to uncover. These threads joined with commentary on colonialism and religion weave a tale that won't end until fate twists the knife one final time.

Morobito Guardian of the Spirit is a good time. A good time told in the straightforward manner of great Japanese prose—without flourishes or artifice. No wonder it is the first of ten books in a hit YA series by Nahoko Uehashi. It has also been adapted into several formats including an equally good, although divergent, anime series (the English version currently airing on Cartoon Network) and a popular manga.

Balsa is a heroine with bite. Chagum a kid you can get behind and the supporting characters deliver. If you're a fan of martial arts adventure and chivalry you should definitely read this book (then follow it up with an anime chaser)

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