Monday's Muse, 52nd edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): When I Look At You (Reprise) by Douglas Sills [The Scarlet Pimpernel - musical soundtrack].

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Mythology - Japanese.

(This is me stretched to my utter limits, guys. This is every possible book I could find remotely related to this mythology. We need more).

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Norioko Ogiwara.

An epic battle rages throughout the land of Toyoashihara, pitting the invading forces of the God of Light and the indigenous forces of the Goddess of Darkness in this masterful first novel from Japan. Immortal demigods representing Light fight the Goddess's band of endlessly reincarnated mortals. As the story opens, Saya, a 15-year-old whose adoptive parents have raised her to worship the Light, discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and therefore a leader of the Children of Darkness. She must travel to the very heart of the lands ruled by the Children of Light and retake the Dragon Sword, a mighty, magical weapon stolen from the Children of Darkness many years before. Then she must tame the destructive power of the Sword and help bring the war to an end. To accomplish these tasks--Saya has failed over and over again in previous lifetimes--she must master her own fear and hatred, and develop her ability to love and forgive. Drawing on Shinto mythology, Ogiwara crafts a complex, action-packed novel with dizzying plot twists and breathtaking fantasy sequences as well as gentle, emotionally charged scenes. Psychologically truthful and abundantly inventive.--Publisher's Weekly

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Searching for the wandering soul of her beloved sister, Mitsuko enlists the aid of a host of supernatural friends in this colorful fantasy, set in 12th-century Japan. As a member of an eminent clan, Mitsuko has spent her first 13 years in a courtly, constricted world. When part of her family is set upon, first by warrior monks who leave her new brother-in-law Yugiri dead and his wife (her sister Amaiko) dazed and numb, then by an ambitious local lord with marriageable sons, Mitsuko finds the courage to flee into the forest--and to accept the company of Goranu, a mischievous, immortal shapechanger. Sure that Amaiko's soul has followed Yugiri's into the land of the dead, she sets out to reclaim it, sped on her way by several Buddhist and Shinto spirits, some kind, some dangerous. Although elaborate courtesies, a round of poetry parties, and stylized conversation slow the beginning, Mitsuko will win readers over with her determination and the forthright way she faces the powers of heaven and hell... The account ends with a poignant, romantic twist: Goranu offers to end his life so he can come back as a mortal and marry her. A readable, engagingly semiserious adventure.--Kirkus

The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey.

Fifteen-year-old Fujiwara no Mitsuko, the fourth daughter of a powerful noble family, is about to be betrothed to an 11-year-old prince whether she likes it or not. In 12th-century Heian Japan, Mitsuko is not free to follow her heart, either to pursue the study of Buddhism or her growing relationship with Goranu, a shape-shifting tengu who has come to her aid in time of need. Even as political forces are directing Mitsuko's future, supernatural forces affect her present life when an evil ghost demands retribution for an unkept promise. Although this novel is a sequel to Dalkey's Little Sister (Harcourt, 1996) and refers back to events in that story, it stands on its own as an interesting fantasy and an even more interesting glimpse into a long ago and far away time and place. It is embellished with characters and customs from Japanese history and folklore, from the Shinto and Buddhist religions, and from the lifestyles and events of the period. Haiku-like verses introduce each chapter and are interspersed appropriately in the text as well. Readers nurtured on folklore and fairy tales from around the world will enjoy this well-told tale, while romantics will appreciate the affection growing between Mitsuko and Goranu. The book ends with the possibility of several different futures for Mitsuko, and with definite room for yet another sequel.--Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA, School Library Journal

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Norioko Ogiwara.

Oguna is an orphan with a secret even he doesn’t know—he’s a prince and heir to a terrible power. His best friend Toko is a member of the Tachibana clan and a potential high priestess able to tame that power...or destroy it.

Half World by Hiromi Goto

Fat, poor and intellectually slow, Melanie Tamaki's days are divided between torment at school and her alcoholic mother at home. The day a crow gives her a fortune cookie—one that says only "go home"—all that changes. Melanie follows her now-vanished mother into Half World, a magical limbo populated by gruesome semi-humans and characterized by despair. Chased by the oozing monstrosity Mr. Glueskin, aided only by a jade rat and a crumbling Magic 8-Ball full of cryptic advice, Melanie seeks escape from Half World with her mother. Unfortunately for Melanie, Mr. Glueskin thinks Melanie is the chosen one, the destined child who'll bring Half World back into balance with the realms of Spirit and Flesh, and he'll do anything to stop her. As Melanie is neither particularly bright nor brave, her persistence and her empathy will have to be enough. The richly flavored, often gruesome despair of the worldbuilding is enriched beautifully by Tamaki's evocative illustrations, in which the contrasts between light and darkness mirror the tale's thematic concerns. Hopeful and beautifully strange.--Kirkus

Ichiro by Ryan Inanza

Ichiro lives in New York City with his Japanese mother. His father, an American soldier, was killed in Iraq. Now, Ichi's mom has decided they should move back to Japan to live with Ichi's grandfather. Grandfather becomes Ichi's tour guide, taking him to temples as well as the Hiroshima Peace Park, where Ichi starts to question the nature of war. After a supernatural encounter with the gods and creatures of Japanese mythology, Ichi must face his fears if he is to get back home. In doing so, he learns about the nature of man, of gods, and of war. He also learns there are no easy answers--for gods or men.

The Grass-Cutting Sword by Catherynne M. Valente.

Similar in tone and style to Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams (2005), Valente's baroquely layered fantasy tells an earthy tale of heroes and monsters. Banished from heaven, Japanese trickster god Susanoo-no-Mikoto, a kami with powers over the wind and the oceans, bemoans his fate and travels across mundane lands hoping to find solace with his mother, Izanami-no-Kami. Then a peasant couple beg him to rescue their daughter, who was kidnapped by a great eight-headed serpent the same serpent that took her seven sisters before her. When the peasants tell Susanoo he may take the eighth daughter as his wife, he agrees. He trails the serpent to the village of Hiroshima, where he slays it and creates the Grass-Cutting Sword from its spine, even as his new wife ignores his lordly reassurances and mourns the monster. This lyrical, language-driven novella alternates between the awkward ("peasant-colored" people) and the sublime, as when Susanoo departs Hiroshima: "footprints flaming over the city, burning white and sere... and a hot wind followed after them."--Publisher's Weekly


Charlotte said...

thanks for this list! There are clearly books that I need I to read....especially Dragon Sword and Wind Child.