Balsa is a bodyguard. She's been saving lives for years, but the challenges she faces in Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of the Darkness, the first two novels in Nahoko Uehashi's Moribito series, may be her toughest ones yet. Her opponents now include the inhuman in addition to the human, and it will take more than guile and Balsa's mastery of the spear to defeat them.
Set in a vividly depicted fantasy world, full of action and mystery and the supernatural, these two books are probably unlike most stories you've read. And they're very well-written, to boot.
In Guardian of the Spirit, Balsa becomes entangled with the destiny of the Second Prince of New Yogo when he is thrown from his carriage into a raging river. Balsa watches these events unfold, then jumps into the river to save his life. She does this with no expectation of rewards. She’s a bodyguard; saving lives is what she does.
But the Second Queen, the mother of Chagum, the Second Prince, begs her to take the Prince from Ninomiya Palace. The Second Queen fears that the Mikado, Chagum's own father, is trying to kill him, and Balsa is the only person the Second Queen can turn to to protect Chagum.
Guardian of the Darkness takes place directly after Guardian of the Spirit, as Balsa returns to her native land of Kanbal. She hasn't set foot in Kanbal since she was forced to flee the country as a child, but it is time, Balsa thinks, that she came to terms with her past. Except there are people in Kanbal who were under the impression that she was dead, powerful people with reason to think they would be better off if she really were dead.
After spawning anime and manga adaptations in Japan, the Moribito books are now being published in the United States. As the Publishers Weekly review of Guardian of the Darkness says, there's something for everyone here. Worldbuilding, imagination, intrigue, fight scenes, even awesome book designs. So if you're if you're looking for a change of pace or just want something good to read, give this series a try.
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