Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner
Series: Spirit's Princess #1
Genre: YA, mythology retelling
Published on April 24, 2012
Published by Random House
Read From: 6.22.12 - 6.25.12
Himiko shouldn't have a care in the world. As the daughter of the most powerful man in the Matsu clan, she has her every need catered to. But Himiko isn't like other girls. She doesn't want to gossip and play silly games. She'd much rather learn how to hunt and forage in the woods like the boys. So time and again Himiko sets out on her own adventures to prove what she can do. Sometimes these adventures result in injury. Sometimes she connects to the natural world in ways that thrill and frighten her. (Can she really communicate with the forest animals?) And one time Himiko loses her way, yet meets a new clan and gains a best friend.
Back home, Himiko is as unsettled as ever. . . .until her mother enlists the help of the clan's shaman, Yama. Himiko must receive her shaman lessons in secret - if anyone, especially her austere father, found out about the lessons and Yama's vision of Himiko as future clan leader, the consequences would be severe. Suddenly, Himiko's path is very clear. . . .and dangerous.
Cover Blurb: I liked the other covers for the Author’s books because you didn’t get to see the people full-on, leaving one’s own imagination to imagine what Helen of Troy or Nefertiti looked like. While I like the style of this one, I don’t like that you can see Himiko full-on.
What I Liked: The storyline was intriguing, exciting, and dramatic. Himiko starts out as a little brat, but as the story progresses she improves, and when the book ends she is a strong, sensible, and likable heroine. I loved the brother-sister relationship between her and Aki, as well as the sister relationship between her and Kaya. And it was a lot of fun to hate Himiko’s father, with his stubbornness and often cruel behavior. He was a good minor villain. While Ryo is not in this installment for long, he shows a lot of promise as the next villain.
What I Disliked: As much as I liked Himiko, there was something lacking. I didn’t become as attached to her as I did Helen and Nefertiti. Maybe it’s because she started as such a brat, whereas Helen and Nefertiti, while spoiled, didn’t really do anything bratty or cause their own problems. Himiko did. She’s still a good heroine, but I honestly didn’t like her as much as the other two princesses.
Believability: While this story contains more “magical” occurrences, the Author still portrays it in a way that feels more like historical fiction than fantasy. When something happens, it feels like you’re seeing it through the eyes of a person who believes in spirits and magic. There could be a realistic explanation, but because our narrator is superstitious, that’s not how she perceives it. And Himiko’s way of perceiving things feels very genuine indeed. Like with all of her books, Esther Friesner has clearly put a lot of research into this one, and the long Author’s Note in the back is just as interesting as the story itself.
Writing Style: I’ve never had anything to complain about when it comes to this Author’s writing. The descriptions are nice, there’s good dialogue, and she always retells things in a way that makes them feel new. This one is no different, except one thing: the plot did begin to drag. Halfway through I grew tired of no one standing up to Himiko’s father. This is a long book, remember - 400+ pages. Maintaining a stalemate between two characters for that long gets a little boring after a while. And every time the characters did stand up to Himiko’s father, they would always back down, so it became predictable what would happen when someone got up the gumption to try it again.
Content: There is nothing to complain about. It is very briefly mentioned that Himiko begins her cycle, passing from girlhood to womanhood, but the Author handles it with the utmost delicacy.
Conclusion: Once the stalemate was finally got over, the storyline picked up, and the book ends with a very promising sequel. Now that Himiko trusts her shaman gifts and knows how to control her temper, she is going to be a very good heroine, and I definitely look forward to seeing her take on Ryo.
Recommended Audience: People who like mythology retellings that are told in a historical way, as well as people who are a fan of Esther Friesner’s other books. Any age can read this one, and while girls would probably enjoy it more than guys, it’s not wholly a girl-only read.
Others in This Duology: