Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Bruremarsj Fra Østerdalen (Wedding March From Østerdalen) by Bukkene Bruse.
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 - Chinese.
Mythology - Chinese.
The Twelve Kingdoms - This is halfway between Japanese and Chinese mythology, but leans more toward the Chinese, so thus its inclusion here. There are seven books in this series from Japan, but only the first four have been translated so far.
Sea of Shadow (#1) by Fuyumi Ono.
Yoko is an ordinary high school girl with nightmares when a golden-haired young man tells her she's in dream-foreshadowed danger. Soon the teen is flying on the back of a huge bird to a kingdom in another world, where she'll eventually learn that she is destined for a throne. The prominence of a jewel and a sword (as well as purification by water) connects this tale to Japanese tradition. Chinese tradition contributes cosmography and the Mandate of Heaven. Anime tradition guarantees lots of bloody monster-killing by the reluctant (and imperfect) Yoko. This otherworld seems thinly realized, with confusing politics; however, violent action and odd creatures abound. The real-world frame plays a small role, though the fantasy of not really belonging to one's parents is key. Yoko leaves behind her conservative, sexist upbringing, putting on men's clothes and developing muscles, acknowledging the demonic within, and learning to assert herself. Yet, she fears trusting anyone and judges the absence of religion as the reason for people's selfishness. A cynical blue monkey, the heroine's amoral self, regularly suggests suicide. The reading level is not difficult, but names (Keiki, Kaiko, Kyokai, Kou, etc.) are tricky without a guide. Pacing is uneven: stretches of inaction drag on and anticlimax replaces a final confrontation with the forces of evil—but six more volumes are planned. Anime fans will be encouraged by the occasional manga-style black-and-white illustration, and the strong female protagonist will attract others to a fantasy with identity and self-acceptance at its core.—Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI, School Library Journal.
Sea of Wind (#2) by Fuyumi Ono.
This is the story of Taiki, who must accept his role as kirin, protector of the Tai kingdom. Born in Japan and raised as a human, Taiki is overwhelmed when he's brought back to the kingdom of Tai, where he's told he's a kirin. With little knowledge or guidance, he must trust his latent instincts to choose a king for the Kingdom of Tai from among dozens of men and women who seek the position. Will the frustrated Taiki, who can't even figure out how to transform into animal form, make the right choice? And more important, will he discover the kirin that lives within?
The Vast Spread of the Seas (#3) by Fuyumi Ono.
When only an eggfruit, the kirin of the En kingdom, Rokuta, was transported to Japan for his own protection. But he was abandoned soon after his birth by his surrogate parents, left to fend for himself in the mountains. It just so happens that at the same time, a young boy in the En kingdom named Koya was also abandoned by his own parents, after which he was raised by demon beasts. Their similar circumstances aren't the only thing to bind these two boys, though. Twenty years after their abandonment, their destinies intersect, with potentially disastrous consequences for the En kingdom.
Skies of Dawn (#4) by Fuyumi Ono.
In the kingdom of Kei, Yoko struggles in her new role as ruler. She's ashamed that her subjects are disappointed in her weakness, and she suffers greatly. In the kingdom of Hou, young, pampered Shoukei watches her father, the ruler of Hou, slain before her very eyes. And in the kingdom of Sai, Suzu slaves away under a scornful mistress....When these three young women set out on their own journeys to find new happiness, their worlds will collide, and a new door to the future will open.
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.
Ai Ling wants to be a dutiful daughter, but surely marrying the vile widower Master Huang is a bad idea. If Ai Ling finds her missing father, then won't she and her mother be freed from blackmail and manipulation? Ai Ling sets off across the kingdom of Xia to find her vanished father, but finds herself embroiled in both Imperial and mystical intrigue. Her quest is aided by her new friends, the exotically handsome half-Xian Chen Yong and his flirtatious foster brother, Li Rong, both seeking Chen Yong's birthparents. Together, they rescue gods, fight zombies and travel to dangerous lands where three-eyed men ride flying chariots. Luckily, Ai Ling has newfound powers that aid in their fight against the forces threatening both the trio and the entire land of Xia. Ai Ling is a well-developed protagonist, from her shyness to her great love of food (leading to plentiful mouthwatering descriptions of meals). This fantasy heroine, who shows her spunk with quiet self-determination instead of swordfights, headlines an appealing magical adventure set in a refreshingly non-Western milieu.--Kirkus.
Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Full of passion and fury, the sequel to Silver Phoenix (2009) brings Ai Ling into the spotlight again as she tries to fight an evil spirit that possesses her and save the young man who has won her heart. This book picks up where the previous volume left off. Ai Ling has killed the death eater, Zhong Ye, but now he resides in her spirit. Her love, Chen Yong, is off to search for his father, and Ai Ling finds a reason to join him on the voyage. But interwoven into this tale is the story of Zhong Ye and how he became the monster whose thirst for power cost him both his beloved Silver Phoenix and his humanity. A bit more confusing than the previous book, this nonetheless has many of the same strong elements: action embroidered by the otherworldly, the search for both love and family, and, most importantly, a brave and true heroine who will entice readers. Readers who were dazzled by Ai Ling the first time out will not be disappointed. -- Cooper, Ilene, Booklist.
Dragonkeeper (Trilogy) by Carole Wilkinson.
An action-packed adventure set in China in 141 B.C. In a remote western palace, Ping, a slave girl of unknown origin, serves the emperor's Dragon Keeper, an incompetent drunkard who neglects the two last-known dragons in his charge. When one of them dies and an evil hunter threatens to kill the other for his magical body parts, the old dragon, Danzi, escapes with the girl. He entrusts Ping with his precious and beautiful purple stone, which he is determined to take to the ocean. As they make their long journey east, Ping develops plausibly from a terrified, abused child into a confident young woman who truly deserves the official title of Dragon Keeper. Beset with self-doubt, often making mistakes, she slowly becomes aware of her innate powers, which includes second sight. The plot twists and turns, cinematic action comes in bursts, and villains are vile, while Danzi, Ping, and her pet rat are heroic, appealing companions who can fight or scheme their way out of every tight spot. Danzi sometimes speaks like a Daoist philosopher, but his telepathic communication with Ping too often resembles the truncated phrases of a Chinese speaker still learning English. That said, the dramatic plot and competently crafted writing make this a good choice for voracious readers of fantasy, especially those who have enjoyed Anne McCaffrey's dragon fantasies. The ending, though satisfying, makes way for a sequel.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, School Library Journal.
Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson.
In this sequel to Dragon Keeper (Hyperion, 2005), young Ping has rescued Kai, the baby purple dragon, son of Long Danzi, the last of the Imperial dragons, and hidden with him on Tai Shan, the forbidden sacred mountain. The old dragon appointed Ping as Dragon Keeper and entrusted her with the dragon stone, from which Kai has hatched. Ping has escaped the dragon hunter and the evil shape-changing necromancer once, but she knows she must keep Kai's existence secret or his life will be in danger. When the necromancer appears on Tai Shan, Ping must flee again. Aided by her pet rat, Hua, and by her ability to summon her qi power, she escapes, only to be captured by the Emperor's guards. Mistakenly thinking her previous friendship with the young ruler will keep her safe, she is betrayed by him and his obsessive search for immortality. She barely manages to save herself for another possible sequel. Ping is an appealingly feisty heroine, and the author paints a vivid picture of life in the Imperial Ming Yang Lodge. Readers should be warned that some of the necromancer's practices are horrifyingly graphic. The dragon's baby talk that Ping hears inside her head makes him seem more real, if a bit silly. References to events in the earlier book are sometimes confusing, but should inspire readers to explore Ping's earlier adventures. This believable fantasy should help fulfill the demand for dragon books.—Quinby Frank, Green Acres School, Rockville, MD, School Library Journal.
Dragon Moon by Carole Wilkinson.
In this final book in the trilogy, Ping has grown into a responsible Dragon Keeper for Kai. Danzi, Kai's father and Ping's first dragon, has left instructions for the girl to take Kai to the Dragon Haven where he can grow up safe from human influence. Following an ancient and faded map, the two set out to discover if Kai, now an adolescent, is the last of the dragons. During the journey, many of Ping's old friends are rediscovered. The story, set during the Han dynasty, offers an unusual combination of fantasy and ancient Chinese culture in which the dragons have extraordinary lives that not only affect Ping, but all of China as well.—June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY, School Library Journal.
Can you think of any others? Three authors seems like a very meager tasting. I do know of Huntress and Ash by Malinda Lo but they are being saved for another list.
[Edit] Thanks to Charlotte at Charlotte's Library for reminding me of Grace Lin's work! And I remembered one more on my own.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.
Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.
Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman.
Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.
But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.
When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.