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Tales of the Magatama #1

Dragon Sword and Wind Child

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In the land of Toyoashihara, the forces of the God of Light and the Goddess of Darkness have waged war for generations. But for 15-year old Saya, the war is far away and unimportant--until the day she discovers she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and a princess of the Children of the Dark. Raised to love the Light and detest the Dark, Saya must come to terms with her heritage even as she is tumbled into the very heart of the conflict that is destroying her country. Both the army of the Light and Dark seek to claim her, for she is the only mortal who can awaken the legendary Dragon Sword, the weapon destined to end the war. Can Saya make the dreadful choice between the Light and Dark, or is she doomed like all the Water Maidens who have come before her?

286 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1988

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Noriko Ogiwara

66 books51 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 140 reviews
Profile Image for Carrie.
124 reviews9 followers
November 2, 2015
If I were to choose one thing I liked best about this book, I would probably choose the way that Ogiwara takes a bucket of fantasy tropes (magical swords, Chosen One types, Light and Darkness, etc.) and dumps it upside down. At first glance it seems like a rather cliché story, but read it and you will discover something strikingly original and beautiful.
Or I might choose the fact that this book struck me in the same way Ratha's Creature did. Original, interesting, a roller coaster of action without a visible path. I read something and thought "Oh! This will happen!" Of course, "this" did /not/ happen. Which was amazing.

The book starts out a bit slow, and the dialogue seems a bit forced. But once the plot picks up, everything else soars up into an amazingly colorful, intricate pattern that isn't really a pattern at all. The writing--not just the translator's writing--is vivid, filled with strong imagery and emotion, and the characters are all very strong and unique. I truly enjoyed this book and hope that the sequels are published, and soon.
Profile Image for Maya.
260 reviews85 followers
December 4, 2013
Noriko Ogiwara grew up reading Western Fantasy books such as Narnia. While she loved those, she also kept dreaming of a fantasy set in Asia. In the end, she simply went ahead and wrote one herself. Dragon Sword and Wind Child is the first book in her Magatama-series, but it is also a stand-alone novel that can be read on its own.

Saya, a slightly tomboyish girl from a tiny village, would be living a perfectly normal life, if it weren't for the intense nightmares that keep reminding her of her dark past as a war orphan. A religious war, or it could be called a crusade, waged by the army of the God of Light against the people who refuse to worship him, derogatorily called "Ground Spiders". Up until now, all that has meant very little to Saya herself, but then she meets the demons from her dream and is about to play an important role in this century-long conflict.

The world of Dragon Sword and Wind Child is inspired by Japanese mythology, the "Record of Ancient Matters" (Kojiki) in general, and it is especially reminiscent of the myth of Izanagi and Izanami or also has characters loosely based on the shinto gods Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi and Susanoo.

However, the author has still created a world very much her own, which you can consider as a fantasy version of Japan, but also simply as a fantasy asian-inspired setting. I certainly didn't catch all the references (even though the book does feature a very interesting afterword and glossary) and apart from the names the Japanese influence on the story might not even be all that apparent for general readers.

The writing isn't exactly polished, but nice enough. Quite a few lines I genuinely enjoyed and for a debut work imho it is definitely a fine effort. The translation is very well done. A sentence here and there could probably have been turned into slightly more natural sounding English, but that's a minor issue.

The book does have its weaknesses. It is quite short, yet a lot happens in the story and some parts were maybe handled a bit too fast. F.ex. I found Saya's extreme depression to progress too rapidly and I didn't really get the feeling that a whole month had passed. The recovery also happened very fast, but that one got explained and did make sense, so I didn't mind so much. Still, sometimes Saya has some kind of flash of genius und just understands something completely, which enables the story to progress. The whole reincarnation thing kind of explains it, but it still felt a bit too easy for me. I also felt that the foreshadowing wasn't done particularly well and the ending had some parts that went just a bit too nicely.

At the same time the book does manage to have depth and complexity. Dragon Sword and Wind Child deals with how religion and culture change over time, how one people will influence another, how one religion or culture will assimilate and modify other already existing customs. The issues of light vs darkness, life vs death, nature vs “civilization” and, at the end of all, coexistence and tolerance play a major part in the story and convey a nice, if idealistic, message.

Saya is a fine heroine, who gets her fair share of character development. She questions herself and things around her, makes mistakes, but also learns from them. She's not your usual YA bratty main character. Torihiko and Chihaya are also very like-able characters and the interactions between Teruhi and Tsukishiro were well-written and both act as individuals. I appreciated f.ex. that Saya realizes that the love she feels for the prince is based for a fair part on physical attraction. There is also no instant-love, quite the contrary and no teenie drama.

Actually this book could be counted as one of the first YA paranormal romance novels I read. And if the publisher would just market it as such, it surely could be getting a few more sales. With reincarnation, gods and doomed love, there is absolutely no reason this should be any less successful than f.ex. Starcrossed.

To sum it up, Dragon Sword and Wind Child can be enjoyed simply for its fantasy story, which is exotic and fresh, but also for the different issues it tackles that are very real and exist in our world just as much as in this imaginary setting。

If you are a fantasy reader, who is at all interested in Asia or Japan in particular, this book is a must-read. For others it is worth reading at least once, if you'd like something different from the general YA fantasy books available in "the West".
Profile Image for mich.
651 reviews234 followers
August 12, 2016
This is a gorgeous story, but not without flaws.
Saya is our protagonist, an "ordinary" teenage girl who learns that she is the one destined to have the power to awaken and still the Dragon Sword, the only weapon that can end the war that is raging between the Light and Dark. I know, sounds a bit too familiar, a bit generic right? Still, I found myself quickly pulled in by the beautiful atmosphere of the story.

I was instantly intrigued by the story's concept of Light and Dark. One side is led by Prince Tsukishiro and Princess Teruhi, the children of the God of Light, who represent life and so they are immortal. On the other side are those who follow the Goddess of Darkness, of death, of earth. Her people die and are reincarnated over and over. Saya is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden, a princess who is born on the side of Darkness but who is always drawn to the Light and, more specifically, to Tsukishiro. While she does not remember her past lives, we are given hints of a relationship between Tsukishiro and the last Water Maiden, Sayura, who killed herself. This book weaves the tale of Saya as she decides what side she will fight on, and the consequences of her choice.

Unfortunately, this book has flaws that are big enough to turn off many readers. The characters are all a bit flat and Saya in particular is a very passive protagonist. (I normally like my female leads to be strong and decisive, however, I do think the point here is that Saya always desires to follow the Light which goes against her very nature as a child of Darkness, and so she's always caught between the two which leads to her feelings of being unable to truly belong on either side and with that comes insecurity, indecisiveness and passivity.) There is a romance that develops later in the book that I think could definitely have been left out. And while I actually like the feel of translated stories, I know that this can be a huge turnoff to some people. Also, the writing does get overly descriptive at times and borders on tedious. And the ending - well, I won't go into it but let's just say, I didn't care for it much.

Still, there are some truly thrilling, heart-racing scenes in this book. And, every once in awhile, a character would say something that would absolutely take my breath away. And the whole atmosphere or feeling or whatever of the story just captured me for some reason. I definitely wouldn't recommend this book to just anybody, but there was enough here for me to appreciate it for what it was.
Profile Image for Jayme.
585 reviews33 followers
January 3, 2016
It took me a while to get into this book, but it wasn't the story's fault, I think it was the translation. It felt very cold and didn't draw me into the amazing story that was unfolding right underneath the completely passionless words. But once I got used to that, the story was incredible.

While reading it I kept wondering if it was based on actual Japanese mythology. It had a real pagan, Greek or Celtic kind of saga feel to it, but Japanese instead. The afterword told me this was exactly what Ogiwara was trying to do. She said she's always had a love for the British style fantasy that draws its inspiration from Celtic myths and wanted to do the same but from a Japanese point of view.

I think my favourite thing about this was how different the story was the from usual British fantasy though. Having a new mythology to draw her story from really made this book stand out. The way it all centers around balance and the cyclical nature of life is fascinating. This was the most packed story I've read in a long time. It was really more like three 100 page books in one. I don't know how he put so much story into such a tiny book! I can't wait for book two, which is finally being published in English later this year.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
3,000 reviews1,207 followers
July 24, 2018
One of the best Japanese Creation Myths retelling I've ever read in my life, and it's a YA. People, read up!

What I remember about the story: we follows the heroine Saya, a daughter of the clan of Darkness, who is also a reincarnation of a series of Water Maidens before her. She is summoned to the Capital to serve the Moon God, son of the God of Light. Saya falls for the handsome, kind Moon God almost instantly. However, soon Saya finds herself caught between the conflict between the Moon God and his fierce, beautiful older sister the Sun God a.k.a ruler of the Land; and there are deeper secrets hidden between the godly siblings.

The God of Light and the Goddess of Darkness in this story are obviously the creation Gods, Izanami and Izanaki, from the Japanese Creation Myths, but the author offers a lot of her own brand of twists and turns for this touching, imaginative fantasy novel. Last but not least, I just absolutely love the ending! This book is surely a Japanese YA novel which definitely needs an anime adaptation!
Profile Image for Kristen.
326 reviews271 followers
February 20, 2012
This was a rare impulse buy for me since I'd never heard of this book until I came across it at the bookstore. I was very glad I read it. It's a translation of a Japanese fantasy book written in the tradition of the common British and American fantasies based on Celtic mythology, only using Japanese mythology from the Kojiki as the basis for the story. I loved the fantasy elements and am definitely planning to pick up the second book in the Tales of the Magatama, which has also been translated into English!

Full Review
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
January 29, 2020
Raised by adoptive parents in the quiet village of Hashiba, Saya had almost no memory of the time before she was found, a very young child, starving and alone on the mountainside. Haunted by terrifying dreams of a fire, and a nighttime flight, she had no real notion of who she was, until a company of travelers arrived with an incredible revelation. For Saya, taught to venerate the God of Light, and his earth-bound children - Prince Tsukishiro and Princess Teruhi - was none other than the Water Maiden, a princess of the Children of Darkness, and the one destined to awaken the fabled Dragon Sword. Would she take her place in the struggle to oppose the tyranny of the Palace of Light, to bring balance to the land of Toyoashihara? Or would she, like all the Water Maidens before her, be drawn to her enemy, and destroyed...?

First translated into English in 1993, before going out of print, and then being republished in this lovely new edition in 2005, this Japanese children's fantasy has long been on my list of books to read, so I was delighted when it was chosen as our May selection for The International Book Club to which I belong. I knew that Ogiwara had drawn on traditional Japanese Shinto mythology in the writing of this - the first in a trilogy (of which, alas, only the first title has been translated) - and I was curious to see what she made of it.

Overall, I think Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a success, and while I was not unaware of a few narrative flaws, while reading, would not hesitate to recommend it to those with an interest in epic fantasy, or Japanese folklore. It was a little disconcerting to see how rapidly the book shifted focus, after Chihaya entered the picture, almost abandoning the tale of Saya's journey of self-discovery, in order to focus on the epic quest of the youngest child of the God of Light; but while Saya was sometimes a little too passive a heroine for my taste, I can't deny that I found the story involving, and, at times, moving.

This is the second fantasy novel with a Japanese theme that I have read, where the narrative developments hinge on the notion of balance, and how destructive it can be, when some sort of duality is off kilter. In The Water of Possibility , by Japanese-Canadian author Hiromi Goto, the imbalance is between masculine and feminine power, and here it is between the forces of light and dark (each of which has both its feminine and masculine defenders), but the principle seems to be the same: too much of one or the other can only lead to disaster. Ogiwara's development of this theme, and her world-building, are impressive, as are her fascinating characters. Definitely one fantasy-fans will want to seek out! As for me, I think I need to find a decent translation of the The Kojiki ...
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
August 7, 2013
See this review and more at Whitley Reads

I recently found out that the second book in this series has been translated to English, so of course I had to do a reread of this one. For…what, the fourth time? Fifth? Who cares; I’m sure I’ll do more.

This one of my favorite books from my childhood, so one of those stars is probably from nostalgia.

That being said, the book probably won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a very dense, plot-heavy book with little in the way of in-depth character development. Which is not to say that the characters aren’t fascinating; they are. But the whole story reads like a fairy tale, so the characters are kind of distant, like someone who looks like they’d be fun to hang out with but you don’t get a chance to.

And I still don’t care, because I’ll take fascinating-but-distant characters over crappy ones any day. All the characters are great, but Chihaya and Torihiko really steal the show. Chihaya is probably one of the best characters I’ve ever read about, as he’s an immortal god who’s been shut away from the world and only in the course of this book meets other people. Watching him come to terms with the world at large, watching him learn about mortality and empathy, is marvelous. The book manages to display him as otherworldly and different, but never makes him into an ass for his lack to other people.

And Torihiko is just cheeky. I love him for being able to be irreverent without being a jerk, like the slew of “witty, sarcastic” characters we see in books today. Saya and her bursts of anger fall under that same heading, too. She’s got a temper on her, but she’s so frikkin polite about it, always feeling bad afterwards and only blowing up when it’s legitimately called for. She’s flawed and human while still being nice, not someone carrying around a chip on her shoulder.

But the best part of this book is the themes and concepts that are explored and turned on their heads. Saya is drawn to the immortal Prince of Light in a situation that could easily fall into bad romance territory, and instead that obsession is treated as just that: an obsession, one to be explored. The balance between Light and Dark and calling them both good and evil in equal measure is, while not new, still wonderfully woven into the story. Too often that theme is brought in and only given lip service, rather than the consideration it deserves.

This book will always have a special place for me, and I would highly recommend it to fans of high fantasy. It’s a cerebral read more than an emotional one, but if that’s your boat, you won’t be disappointed here.
Profile Image for Hirondelle.
953 reviews208 followers
March 10, 2011
This was a different book than I expected. It has more similarities to the current fashion for YA romantic adventure fantasy ( the female main character getting a boyfriend who is a vampire/werewolf/angel/demon/dragon/god/whatevertheywillthinkofnext) in a very different tone (mythologic) and setting, a prehistoric type of fantasy Japan. I head this compared to The Lord of the Rings, or Narnia, or many other things, but I would only compare it to one of the longish chapters in the Silmarillion, but Japanese and romantic-YA style.

The setting and different type of writing, different type of character psychology are truly very interesting. The writing is plainer, simpler and more direct than I expected, which contributes to it being a fast read. There are many hints in the translation of its original richness in echoes in the original Japanese. As it was, I feel I got an idea of the original but the language was not always perfectly on-tone with my expectations of pre-historical society with many characters which are gods, either too idiomatic ("i´ve had it with you", the sun goddess to her moon twin brother) or words just sounding too modern (enviromnent). But translating is a thankless task, and I am very happy to have read this translation.
April 3, 2018
Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts!

I’m so happy that I read Dragon Sword and Wind Child and would never have done so if it hadn’t been for Asian Lit Bingo. The prompt was to find a book that had been translated into English, and I decided that I wanted to read a fantasy book. Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a Japanese-mythology inspired fantasy story that had been written in Japanese. One of my favourite fantasy book themes are dark vs. light, so this immediately spoke to me. I was also very intrigued by the Water Maiden aspect.

It’s #ownvoices.


Saya is just 15-years-old when she ends up having to deal with a lot more than she bargained for, thus she doesn’t always act responsibly. I thought that the author did a great job in capturing the mindset of a teenager.

I think this is one of the books that will be even more beautiful after a reread because there are so many small details that one might have overflown during the first read. At least, that is what I assume, and this book is for sure going on my reread pile.

The romance is very sweet in this novel, and I especially liked how slow-moving it was and that a strong friendship and trust was established before the couple itself was established. It’s very romantic to read about.

If I could ever have a superpower, I would choose to be able to transform into other living beings. There’s one sequence in this book that describes one of the character’s feelings and experiences, when they turn into a mouse and it is awesome. This is one of the most creative subjects that I think a writer can write about, because it demands a lot of creativity to imagine how a different living being experiences the world we live in and how it is different and similar to how a human being experiences the world.

One beautiful passage in this book that I recommend taking time to read is the passage where the idea of an apology is explained. Words are very important to me personally, so this was especially lovely for me to read. Another passage that I loved is where one of the characters takes another to show them a field of flowers, instead of picking the flowers and giving the character a bouquet. I don’t like bouquets because the flowers end up dying, so I thought that this was so sweet!

The title is very intriguing, as in retrospect it gives you a taste for what the book will be about, however, I didn’t pay much attention to it until after reading the book.

One criticism that I have is that we don’t find out much about her past life, especially her relationship with the Moon God. Her past relationship was a focal point of the story, however, we never got to know what exactly had happened so many years ago.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a very intriguing and detailed fantasy novel. I recommend it to all of you.

This book certainly showed me that I shouldn’t be just focussed on upcoming and hyped books (which are usually written in English), but also take some time to look for books that have been translated from other languages. There is such a vast library of books that is out there and just waiting to be unlocked, but sadly we don’t always have the correct language key for the library.

Trigger warnings: suicide.
Profile Image for ♥Xeni♥.
1,121 reviews75 followers
March 30, 2021
Honestly I really disliked this book. Because of two main reasons: 1. The way young women (but mostly those deemed 'lesser') are treated and 2. the inconsistency in the writing.

Supposedly Saya is the heroine of this story. You'd never know it, though, as to how the plot drags her from place to place, how men demand her attention, time, affection, undying gratitude for existing, etc. and how terribly she has been raised. Perhaps this is all very realistic for Japan, or China, or other East Asian cultures, but to me it mostly smacks of outdated misogynistic beliefs that make me uncomfortable and ruin any positives I could have found in the narrative. Saya is a notoriously passive protagonist, who finds it hard to do anything on her own (even hold a sword).

The few moments she is more daring and capable were my favorite, but they were so few and often ruined by a man shortly thereafter. She opens her mouth to rebuke one of her Lords for blaming Chihaya for something he was born with; out of his control. He turns it around and blames her for putting anyone before her own people. And she, "at a loss for words, was sorry that she had opened her mouth." Is this your princess or not? Is she a young girl to be raised or not? Is she the woman you're courting to marry you or not? All this back and forth all the time with the women endlessly losing.

There is so much illogical stuff happening, that it is totally distracting me from the story. The small inconsistencies pile up (e.g. when Saya leaves her village far in the rural areas, she mentions a few days journey on horseback, during which she 1. became a proficient horsewoman, and 2. they crossed countless numbers of rivers and mountains. In a few days. Either magic helped them which was never mentioned in the entire story, or she's a liar). But there are larger issues as well: Torihiko says, "don't go to the capital, Mahoroba! You'll die." and Saya goes anyway. Once there, however, she is clearly needed in the plot to claim back the Dragon Sword, as she is the only one who can touch it. So what is, Torihiko? Manipulation and reverse psychology on a poor innocent naive young child?

And what is up with this ancient prince (at least a few centuries old) being so in love with a child that he especially brings her to his palace. No parental guidance. Basically no guidance at all. What a backwards, misogynistic, hypocritical, hierarchical culture. Also, loving someone just because they are the most beautiful creature on earth is not love. If anything it's lust or desire to possess. You don't immediately love someone just because they're pretty and nice to you. This book is definitely not teaching young readers the right thing.

Time and space make no sense in this book at all. They travel for a day and a bit and all of a sudden are far off in the other country, the place the war is being held. Also the place the magic fairy god prince managed to travel from in an hour or so. It makes no sense, and yet the travel parts of this story are the only parts I like.

The tone of the story is heavily influenced by the translation. There are moments it feels like an old mythological fairy tale, and then a character opens their mouth and says something incredibly modern and incongruous. Often we are told how a character feels or emotes after the fact, and thus their actions are left disembodied from their feelings.

There is also a lot of irony in this struggle between Light and Dark. The Light are immortal, and need nothing from earth, and yet spread death and destruction everywhere they go with the one hand, while claiming death is only for the Dark in the other. The Light kill people to purify their city, their bodies, their existence. They imprison, kill without discretion and basically have no compassion at all for any living creature, yet they are the good ones. The side of Dark has rebirth, healing, reverence for life on its side, yet it is the evil one. This irony is never acknowledged by any of the characters in the book, however, on neither side of this struggle. Almost as though the author never realized it themselves.

This is the kind of book where I would have preferred to read a prophecy early on (as cliche as it is), so when different 'fated elements' are brought into play it feels less deus ex machina.

I can imagine in the original Japanese the author builds up a beautiful feeling of this struggle between light and dark with magical creature-gods and ethereal beings. I only caught a glimpse of that in this translation and it wasn't enough to support the other issues I had in the read.

As to the end:
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews231 followers
March 25, 2016
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a translation of a Japanese fantasy novel that draws on Japanese mythology and Western fantasy tradition.

The forces of the God of Light and the Goddess of Darkness have been at war for generations. For Saya, an orphaned teenage girl living among the people of Light, the war exists somewhere in the background… until she finds out that she is the Water Maiden, a reincarnation of the priestess of the Goddess of Dark. As the Water Maiden, Saya is the only one who can tame the Dragon Sword, a legendary weapon fated to end the war between the deities.

What I liked most about Dragon Sword and Wind Child was how the light and dark was not equivalent to good and evil. The children of the God of Light are immortal and eternal, unchanging. The children of the Goddess of Darkness die and are reborn in a cyclical pattern. Neither is good or evil, but by starting the war the God of Light has been upsetting the balance between them.

“For the first time Saya understood how people can grow accustomed to war. Intensified by the stark contrast between life and death, fleeting moments of joy such as these could make one almost mad with happiness.”

I generally liked the characters, although there were a couple of minor ones I had trouble keeping track of. Chihaya was by far my favorite for how he didn’t know or care for societal customs. It gave him a humorous side that not a lot of the other characters had. As a heroine, I thought Saya seemed rather passive. Don’t be mistaken by the blurb – Saya is not destined to wield or fight with the Dragon Sword.

I was utterly immersed in the world Ogiwara created, which came to vivid life through the quality writing. The prose was simply beautiful, and I have no complaints regarding the translation.

I’m glad I read Dragon Sword and Wind Child, and I’m already planning on tracking down more by this author. If you’re looking for fantasy novel drawing from a non-Western background, this would be one of the first I’d recommend.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Dawn Michelle.
2,412 reviews
August 10, 2023
Read Around the World: Japan

This was April's book-club book, and I have to admit, after last months read of "Monkey" I was a little dubious. We stayed in the Far East with this one, but this was centered in Japan and not China. And as I really love all things Japan, I was hoping that would help me love this book.

I am really surprised. I really, really enjoyed this book. I didn't understand HALF of it because I know nothing of Eastern Religion and the gods that they worship. Trying to figure out who they all were was the most confusing part of this book to me. The story itself was delightful and had several "edge-of-your-seat" moments. I stayed up until 2:45am to finish this because I just COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. And there WAS a part where I wanted to throw the book across the room I was so upset [this seems to be a trend lately with books I am reading. Hmmm] with what was happening.

I will admit I thought the end was a little to "pat" for my tastes. After dealing with the twin Immortals and their terribleness, I felt how it ended did them a disservice [even though they were truly horrific...AND icky] and I was a little disappointed. But not enough to NOT read the next one in the series.
Profile Image for sanaz.
155 reviews145 followers
December 5, 2016
It is a fantastic retelling of Kojiki Stories, of the divide between Izanami and Izanagi, light and darkness, that is cast in a way that's understandable and profound for modern reader. Again, young adult literature proves to be so deep and moving.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,867 reviews5,033 followers
July 11, 2009
Sadly I did not get the edition shown here, with the lovely blue cover. My edition did not have illustrations. But it was still interesting and original.
Profile Image for Lois.
71 reviews9 followers
April 26, 2021
I wanted to read this book because I wanted to read some real Japanese fantasy. It read pretty strangely, with uneven pacing and weak character development, fitting a story that would take at least double the number of pages handled by most fantasy authors into a pretty concise 277 pages. The story began with a number of plot archetypes and cliches, but pleasantly surprised me going off in quite a different, unexpected direction, and surprisingly lead to an exciting, dramatic, and ultimately satisfying conclusion. I know there are sequels, but this book certainly works as a standalone too.

The magic system is very underdeveloped. I wish I could say that this is because it exists to inspire wonder, but it works in quite technical ways, and is used as is convenient for the plot before being conveniently forgotten. The heroine, Saya, clearly has some magical abilities – at one point in the story, she learns to possess animals and uses the skill that one time, but that's it. Presumably if she can do this she can do some other cool things too, but we never get to see it, and she never expresses any interest in learning what she can do. The magic of and mythos surrounding the Dragon are equally underdeveloped, which makes the plot point surrounding it not terribly satisfying.

The world of Toyoashihara (which apparently is an old poetic name for Japan, but I did not know this while reading it) also lack development, but it's still an interesting setting, particularly in relation to the creation myth (do you still call it that when it's the actual history of the world?), the minor gods and the Children of Darkness and of the Light. The struggle between Light and Darkness is a lot more complex than thus named battles are in much literature. Although the Darkness is seen as evil at the beginning of the book by Saya and the people of Toyoashihara, the side of the Light actually serves as the antagonist for most of the story. Characters on both sides are complex, with interesting, believable (though sometimes somewhat obtuse) motivations, although I really wish we had seen more nuanced development of the characters.

Overall I did enjoy this book, and the finale in particular was very gripping, but it's definitely a story with major weaknesses. I'm glad I read it, but I think I'll leave this fantasy series at just the one book.
Profile Image for Amy Rijk.
168 reviews8 followers
November 9, 2018
More of a 4.5 than 4 stars really.

My thoughts on this one are hard to accurately put into words. It's a very good book, unique, but with a familiar feel.

It had me reading large portions of this book at a time, but when I put it down I had trouble picking it up again. I wasn't able to read this book while listening to music or while very tired. It's not necessarily hard to read however. It simply demands a lot of attention.

The writer is definitely skilled and I feel like the translator did a good job maintaining the original Japanese feel, because this book is oozing a Japanese sensibility to me. Mixed with some more western fantasy. The world building is definitely one of the strongest points here. It feels very much like authentic mythology. I did however feel like the pacing was little off here and there. It could be because I expected this to be part of a duology or trilogy with the same characters, but as turns out it's a standalone within a series in the same world. I realised this about halfway through the book and it made everything feel a little cramped together. A little too fast.

To me the first half of this book felt very solid. The second half had very good moments accompanied by moments that were good, but at times lacking in a bit more.... more? I think I simply expected more pages from this story to conclude it.

I do wholeheartedly recommend it however. It's a good read with very beautiful illustrations for every chapter (of which there are 6, in turn divided into smaller 'chapters'). Do take your time for this one however.
Profile Image for Kelly.
336 reviews23 followers
March 17, 2022
Updated folklore/mythology is one of my favorite niche genres. The big thing for me to make these good though is you have to be able to recognize the original story. If the author has deviated so far from the original path that you really are only taking their word for it that they were truly inspired by a well-known folktale or myth then that's not really a retelling and in some cases, it really just feels like a cheap marketing ploy (there are unfortunately several extremely popular YA novels that feel like this). So I was incredibly happy when Dragon Sword and Wind Child was immediately recognizable as the Japanese Creation Myth and that her changes took it from a myth to a fairy tale.

Saya is found wandering a forest near death as a young child, she is then taken in and adopted by an older couple. Over the years she finds her place in her new village but is plagued by nightmares of fire and a shrine priestess who terrifies her. On the night of the Hagai, a festival, Saya discovers that she is the Water Priestess of the People of Darkness a group who revere the Goddess of Death and one viewed with scorn and meets Prince Tsukishiro the demigod son of The God of Light hell-bent on the destruction of the Goddess of Death. Saya has a choice to make she can embrace her lineage and save her people or continue down the path of Light that she started those many years ago when she was found in the forest. Her decision will change the fate of the world.

This was beautifully told. I feel like this could have become unnecessarily complicated and long-winded but Ogiwara keeps the complications to just what needs to be added to keep the tension going. And she does an exceptional job of creating and maintaining just the right amount of tension through Saya's indecisiveness, the pacing in this was really excellent, it never felt rushed or too slow. I found that the simplicity of the story was the best part though. The play of light against darkness, or in this case, immortality vs death and rebirth is something that is a complicated subject but Ogiwara keeps it simple using the impact on nature to explain it. This topic alone could have become a really long drawn-out philosophical debate between the opposing forces but she avoids that which makes this book perfect for its demographic.

In terms of the characters I absolutely hated Saya at the beginning, but through really exceptional character progression she goes from kind of whiny, indecisive, and a little bit of an entitled brat to a strong and courageous young woman at the end. However, I have to say that Chihaya was my favorite character. We don't get a lot of dialogue from him but from what we do we can gradually see the change that he is undergoing from a God of Light to a human with emotions.

The ending of this totally had a Ponyo vibe though. Seriously, if you've watched Ponyo's Mom nicely but firmly tells Ponyo's dad to stop being an ass and she's already made a decision so he might as well accept it and the conversation between The Goddess of Death and the God of Light at the end pretty much goes the same exact way. Outside of the Ponyo vibe though the way this is wrapped up was very well done. Earlier in the book Chihaya is told that either he will have to kill his father (the God of Light) or his father will kill him, what that actually looks like in the end is not what I expected at all but is the perfect fairy tale ending.

Overall I enjoyed this immensely and I'm looking forward to reading the next couple of books in the series.
Profile Image for Othy.
119 reviews1 follower
September 7, 2023
I read this as a first venture into Japanese fantasy literature, and I was both delighted and unsurprised. I thought the setup could have led to some really fascinating tales, but the author only seemed to scratch the surface of what might have been possible. One shouldn't judge a book by what 'might have been', but here I do because of how interesting the world seemed to me.
Profile Image for Eden.
1,118 reviews91 followers
April 23, 2015
In a world where you either follow the God of Light or the Goddess of Darkness, 15 year-old Saya was raised to love the Light. And when she is chosen as a handmaiden for the Prince of Light, there is no higher honor.

But Saya soon becomes dissatisfied with life at the Palace of Light. And she finds out why. Saya is really the Water Maiden, the Princess of Darkness. Though Saya loves the Light, Darkness is where she belongs and soon she finds both sides are at war with each other. But she, along with the help of another, might just be able to stop the Light from destroying the world she lives in.

A friend recommended this book to me and I was very happy that my library had it to borrow. The story follows Saya who is more than just an regular girl. Though she has lived a pretty normal life, she finds out her true origins. The book might sound like any fantasy story, but it is pretty unique and has great characters. It is also very beautifully written.

I love this book. I think the story is just amazing and for me it was very easy to get into. Once I would start reading I didn't want to stop. I know this is the author's first book and she did a wonderful job. In the author's note at the end she said that she hopes readers will feel the emotion she put into writing this book, and I have to say I did. I became attached to the characters and I found myself tearing up a few times.

This is truly a wonderful book and I am so happy that a friend recommended it to me otherwise I may have never found it. It is a unique fantasy book set in a fascinating world with great characters and a story that makes you want to keep reading. I recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy.
Profile Image for Xan Rooyen.
Author 34 books111 followers
May 24, 2013
More like 3.5/5 stars.

So much to love about this book but sometimes the storytelling got in the way of the story itself.

Firstly, this is a translation of a novel originally written in Japanese. The prose was heavy handed at times and did't always flow smoothly. Other times it read more like an anime series and I quite liked it. I think some of the head hopping might've been due to translation, and might not have been the author's intention, however, it still threw me out of the story a few times.

My biggest gripe about this book is the heroine or lack thereof. Saya just didn't convince me. She was meant to have special powers but whenever she got the chance to use them and prove her significance, well let's say it was decidedly underwhelming. The best character in the book we don't even meet until almost half way through.

I loved the Japanese mythology element, I loved the less stereotypical good vs evil angle and loved the dynamic between the siblings. I didn't love the heroine who was also the POV character. I found her a bit snivelly and irritating at times. Because I wasn't really into Saya, I didn't really feel the developing romance as I think I should have. The love interest was great though! And I absolutely adored the fact that he was androgynous and not some cliche beefcake hero type.

I did enjoy this one but I didn't love it.
Profile Image for Kami.
528 reviews34 followers
August 16, 2007
Why is it that lame books stay around forever and good books, like this one, disappear off the face of the earth. I had to look this up under amazon.ca to even find it. Ridiculous. My only hope for society is that I tried looking up Catherine Called Birdie, (which I detested) and couldn't find that at all. Anyway, I liked this book a lot. It was kind of odd, much to my liking. It was set in Asia, or it's magical equivelant, and involved a quest, a sword, invading armies, that sort of thing. Not too deep, but well written and different.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,431 reviews52 followers
June 5, 2012
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a hidden gem. Ogiwara weaves a lyrical, whimsical, complex tale about love, war, fate and religion. Although the English translation is beautiful, I can't even imagine how gorgeous and nuanced it would be in the original Japanese. As a warning to fantasy fans looking for their next escapism read, this isn't a romp of an adventure; rather it is a slow burn, character and idea driven myth.
Profile Image for Hokuto.
24 reviews2 followers
June 5, 2007
An intriguing read, with odd twists I didn't expect - I've heard that there are two more books in the trilogy, but I don't think they've ever been translated and it seems a shame, as I'd love to read them (and this one again!).
Profile Image for Nancy.
16 reviews
November 22, 2007
This was the first novel I had read in a long while, and it kept my attention. The myth doesn't bog down the narrative and vice versa. Good read.
1,251 reviews10 followers
April 20, 2020
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a thoroughly satisfying and entertaining fantasy adventure and, while it doesn't break the mould and offering anything startlingly original, it does have its own certain flavour and feel. Of course the basis in Japanese mythology and folklore, as well as some of the cultural trappings of Ogiwara's fantasy world, give it a different atmosphere for a reader used to Western fantasy, but this is a book firmly rooted in the genre. The familiarity of the high fantasy plot and the motifs of power, heroism, sacrifice and friendship make Ogiwara's adventure very readable, and for fans of movies like Princess Mononoke it conjours a sumptuous Japanese world of nature Gods and Goddesses, superhero powers and magical creatures. That's not to say the book is cartoon-like or particularly aimed at young readers; Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a dark tale filled with ruthless, evil and violent deeds, an exciting and at times breathless fantasy which, by the time you reach the final scenes, you'll find yourself devouring in one sitting.

Saya, the protagonist, is an orphan girl who discovers she is the next mythical Water Maiden, a priestess with the power to calm the violence of the Dragon Sword, a weapon capable of slaying the Children of Light, worldly deities who maintain the earth in a perpetual state of war at the behest of their heavenly father. The God of Light is set against the Goddess of Darkness, who represents mortality and the natural cycles of life. The entities of Darkness have been confined and repressed and the world is ruled by the unnatural eternal beings Prince Tsukishiro and Princess Teruhi. Saya is discovered by these demi-gods and brought to their domain where she fights to reconcile the two sides of her personality and is forced to make a decision as to which side she will aid in the coming struggle. It all sounds very contrived and stereotyped but, after an admitedly clumsy start, Ogiwara gets into her flow and creates some nuanced and intriguing characters. Saya is a great protagonist and her role as foil to the power around her casts her in pacific and slightly different role than the typical fantasy hero.

When Saya rescues the third child of the God of Light, a young boy kept confined and protected in the temple, events spiral into war between the sides. There are lots of characters, some good and some too typecast, and the war itself is described briefly, with action scenes relegated into the background for the most part, but that all serves to keep Saya and the titular Wind Child in the forefront. They are careful, delicate characters, the most sympathetic of fantasy characters who find themselves embroiled in things greater, more dangerous and more powerful than they wish to be part of (Frodo and Sam being the archetype) and it makes for an enthralling and moving second half of the novel. The strange and quiet love between Saya and Chihaya is beautifully done, gender roles blurred as it is often Saya who plays the part of active rescuer. The Dragon Sword is the power that threatens to overwhelm them and their success hinges on Saya's ability to null and calm deadly power rather than wield it. By the end, which is perhaps a little over the top, Chihaya takes on the Orpheus role and the story becomes one of many sacrifices in order to find peace. The build up is very good but the finale is a bit too convoluted.

All in all this novel does what fantasy should do; it sweeps you away to another world and holds you there for a brief while. The battle between Light's sense of perfection, of beauty and of immortality clashes powerfully with the Darkness which represents a natural order of things, sadness, mourning and humanity. Teruhi in particular is a cold and calculated villian who provides the book with its most surprising and dramatic moment when she infiltrates the Darkness camp and tricks them into condemning Chihaya for murder. Ogiwara creates an organic and natural fantasy world, and violences plays a role in that too. The plot draws heavily on Japanese mythology but the book develops themes common across most world religions; belief, life cycles, what happens to us after we leave this world, redemtion and sacrifice, reincarnation. It's heavy stuff, but with Saya at the centre of it Ogiwara has a likeable, lively main character, one you're happy to go on a journey with and root for her. Chihaya's strange, ghost-like feel is a good contrast with Saya and together they perform in a magical adventure full of thrills and beauty, enough to keep any fan of the fantasy genre very happy. 6
March 11, 2018
Fifteen-year-old Saya is the only survivor of an attack by the army of the God of Light on her village when she was a child. Although she occasionally dreams about the attack, she now lives with her adoptive parents in the village of Hashiba, which has accepted the God of Light and his immortal children, Princess Teruhi and Prince Tsukishiro. Saya has no memories of her birth parents and loves the Light just as much as any other person in Hashiba, so it's a shock when several strangers arrive and tell her that she's a princess of the Children of the Dark. Unlike the immortal Children of the God of Light, the Children of the Goddess of Darkness can die and then be reincarnated, and Saya is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden. Before she has a chance to truly process this, Prince Tsukishiro arrives and takes a sudden interest in her.

Saya is faced with several choices: she can become one of the prince's handmaidens and eventually his bride, knowing that he doesn't really love her; she can kill herself like the Water Maidens before her; or she can somehow find a way to escape. She chooses the third option and discovers both the Dragon Sword, a weapon so powerful it can kill gods, and Chihaya, a Child of the God of Light who is seen as a failure by his siblings because he has always been drawn to the Darkness.

I honestly didn't know where Ogiwara was going to go with this book, most of the time. Saya figured out that her love for Prince Tsukishiro was foolish surprisingly quickly, although it took a bit longer for her heart to catch up. Chihaya was...unexpected. I had caught the mention of a third Child of the God of Light, but I hadn't thought that Saya would be meeting him so soon and taking him along with her.

The immortals, Chihaya in particular, came across as somewhat alien. Chihaya had the ability to switch bodies with various animals and didn't seem to be aware, or maybe didn't care, that the animals wouldn't necessarily be okay if they got injured while he was using them. He could experience pain and certainly disliked it, but any injuries would usually disappear in a day or less. He cared about his horse and Saya, in that order, and I'm not sure he truly realized, during a good chunk of the book, that Saya could die.

The book's pacing was a bit slow for my tastes, but I liked reading about Saya's efforts to understand Chihaya. She had to struggle to convince the Children of the Goddess of Darkness to keep him free as he kept doing things that indicated he was more dangerous to have around than they'd initially thought. Watching how Chihaya changed as the story progressed was fascinating.

I wish, though, that Saya hadn't come across as more a supporting character than a main character. I went into the book expecting her to be more active. There were moments when she had choices to make and things to do, but mostly she existed to support Chihaya while he gradually came into his powers and got a better look at the Darkness he'd been drawn towards all his life. Saya supposedly had the power to pacify gods but never got to the point of being able to use them, unless her ability to connect with Chihaya counted.

I kind of wish this had been a friendship-only book, since I felt Chihaya and Saya worked best as friends, but I suppose their eventual romance fit with the "God of Light and Goddess of Darkness" theme. The way I felt about the two of them reminded me a little of how I felt about the sudden romance in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass. It felt forced.

All in all, despite its problems this was pretty good. I look forward to the next book, although I wonder how it'll be related to this one. I don't recognize the character names in the description and, honestly, the way Dragon Sword and Wind Child ended makes it work just fine as a standalone.


The book includes two full-page, full-color illustrations. One is a larger version of the cover illustration.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Profile Image for Mary.
386 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2018
This was a really awesome read. It was written in Japanese and translated to English, so some things that might have been more obvious to a reader of the original, such as the godlings, the Prince & Princess of Light, corresponding to the moon & sun, took me a little longer to sort through. That certainly didn't hurt the story any though, and may have even added a little more mystery.

Saya, our main character is something of a reluctant heroine, and the path she travels throughout the story is full of tough lessons and growth. Its awesome to see that while the core of her character remains unchanged, her perspective on herself and the world and people around her changes considerably over time. It's refreshing to see her mature without really changing the core of who she is.

The world & mythology was also engaging. While I am not especially knowledgeable about Japanese mythology, the influence is clear. However, from what I gather from the afterward, it's an influence on the story without being the basis of the story. In some ways it reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia, but in this battle of Light and Darkness there is more nuance and perspective than just good and evil. Overall it was a really enjoyable and refreshing read.
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