by Nahoko Uehashi
translated by Cathy Hirano
Arthur A. Levine, 2008. 248 pgs. Children's/Young Adult
When Balsa, an itinerant bodyguard and fighter, rescues the Second Prince from an assassination attempt made to look like an accident, she gets herself into a nest of trouble. Hired by the prince's mother to protect him, she and Chagum flee into the mountains pursued not only by the monster Rarunga, but by the forces of Chagum's father, the Mikado. Chagum, it turns out, has been chosen as the Moribito, the Guardian of the Spirit; he has an egg growing in his chest (this is the kind of creepy part) that must be protected in order to save his country from drought, but his own family believes he must be killed to save the land. The story of Balsa and the Moribito is already a major franchise in Japan, including books, radio, and manga and anime adaptations. This first book in the series was published in the United States just last year and the next will be released very soon. Both are welcome arrivals as the story is filled with action, adventure, suspense, and charged with Japanese mysticism, culture, and martial arts--sort of a young people's version of Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori, and it doesn't get better than that.