Sora’s life was full of magic–until she discovered it was all a lie.
Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.
As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.
4.5 stars — I’m a day late, but I started reading this book to fulfill the January theme for one of my Diversity challenges, which was “Stories based on/ inspired by diverse folktales/culture/mythology.” This book fit that theme PERFECTLY and I’m so glad I picked it up with this challenge in mind, b/c I was thoroughly entertained by Sora’s story! This is not a book that typically piques my interest, as I tend to go for either contemporary or more modern paranormal/sci-fi. But after reading a review from Lillian @Mom With a Reading Problem, it sort of just stuck with me. So when I saw it go on sale, and noticed it matched the diversity theme, I snatched it up.
So after that long-winded explanation…ahem. I really loved that this one introduced me to some mythology from Japan. It was all so enchanting, and I loved the blending of the world of the Kami with the modern world in Japan. I’m not really a huge fantasy reader b/c I enjoy the linking back to the real world, so I loved that this was both…I guess kind of urban fantasy then, eh? If you couldn’t tell, I’m really not that familiar with the genre.
I loved the uniqueness of Sora’s journey. So often we read about a seemingly ordinary girl who actually has extraordinary powers and saves everyone. In some ways Sora’s story was kind of opposite. She grew up thinking she was a being of extraordinary powers, but in the end she was a normal human. But it was her normal humanness that helped save everyone (sort of). I really LOVED that. I loved seeing her struggle with the lies she had been told, and how she would deal with her new reality, eventually coming to embrace what it meant. I enjoyed Sora as a narrator, I thought her struggles were relatable and she grew in a reasonable way.
And the plot kept me hooked!! I enjoyed the journey the whole group went on to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the bad guys. There was exciting fight scenes and intriguing plot twists. I was up til 3am reading this bad boy, before I had to finally put it down.
I’m not a fan of love triangles, but this one only bugged me a little since it was pretty shallow, though I will admit that I fell for the first boy and didn’t give the second boy nearly enough of a chance, so I didn’t really get totally on board with the romance. It’s funny, b/c I tend to require romance in the books I read, but I wasn’t super invested in this one. It had some great butterfly moments, but I wasn’t always convinced of the feelings involved. Perhaps I didn’t get what was drawing them together outside of attraction.
As for the side characters, I really enjoyed them and loved that they all had some depth, with both admirable qualities and flaws. I thought Chiyo would annoy me, but I actually came to enjoy her and root for her (and I loved her romance with Haru). I felt similarly about Haru, but he really surprised me, and I kind of loved that. I almost wished I knew more about Takeo, b/c I really enjoyed him, and I felt like there could be more there. And then there’s Keiji. I had a harder time forgiving his flaws, but I also enjoyed his redeeming moments (and they made me bawl). I also really liked that he was a bit of a nerd and beta boy. I even kind of enjoyed the bad guy and the story surrounding him.
One of the things that has me rounding down instead of up is that I found I guessed a few major plot twists, and how to defeat the bad guy, quite early on, and so it was frustrating to wait around while Sora (or the others) figured it out. Sometimes I get giddy when I figure things out, but this was just quite obvious so it wasn’t quite as fun.
Regardless of all that, I was fully invested in this story, and I LOVED that this was a standalone novel, and I felt like the story got everything it deserved in just one book. And Sora is definitely one of my favourite YA characters, she deals with so much and I admire how she navigated her journey.