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Friday, January 10, 2014

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Book Review: Prophecy

On New Year’s Eve, HarperTeen released Warrior, the sequel to Ellen Oh’s epic fantasy Prophecy. I missed out on reading Prophecy when it came out, but the release of its sequel seemed like a good opportunity to go back and check it out. Besides, I’m a sucker for a good fantasy adventure.

Seventeen-year-old Kira is a demon hunter, hated and feared by all the citizens of Hansong even though she’s devoted her life to protecting them from the demons that plague their kingdom. They don’t know about the monsters walking among them disguised as humans: they only know Kira's eerie yellow eyes, and that she seemingly attacked their beloved young prince years ago. Now Hansong has been overthrown, and one by one the Seven Kingdoms are falling to the dark forces of the Demon Lord. Kira flees Hansong with prince Taejo and a small band of soldiers. Together, they embark on a quest to find a legendary warrior. Only the Dragon Musado can unite the kingdoms and defeat the Demon Lord.
Ellen Oh crafts an exciting tale full of action, magic, and monsters from the first page. We follow Kira as she stalks a pair of demons and brings them down before they can carry out their plan to assassinate her uncle, the king of Hansong. As a member of the prince’s personal guard with the one-of-a-kind ability to detect demons, Kira is a rough-and-tumble sort, no stranger to getting her hands dirty and putting her life on the line.

Oh’s attention to detail really shines as the threat of demon invasion takes Kira and her friends into the depths of the Seven Kingdoms. Our heroes  explore a world full of hidden temples, fantastic creatures, magical treasures, and heavenly maidens. Fantasy is my preferred genre, and while I love it for its tropes and conventions, I always appreciate a fresh take. Kira and her world are greatly inspired by Korean folklore and history. I was excited to notice the nods to the three kingdoms that eventually united to become Korea, and their legendary founder, Dangun. The world-building is extremely detailed but not overwhelming, with a glossary of terms at the back of the book.

At the center of the conflict is a story about family loyalty. Kira’s aunt and uncle are the rulers of Hansong, thus she, her parents and two brothers are also royalty. I was half-expecting one or two family members to turn traitor or otherwise prove to be an antagonistic force for Kira, but I was pleasantly surprised. While they have their conflictsKing Kang is often at odds with his supernatural niece, for instance, while Kira’s aunt and mother are pressuring her into an arranged marriageit is clear that they all deeply care for one another.

I did wish to see more development of Kira’s brothers. Kwan and Kyoung are older and more mature, but they come off as flat and I had a hard time convincing myself that they and Kira were related. Fantasy adventures are often a precarious balance of plot, world-building, and character development. While the plot is well-paced and exciting and the world-building top-notch, I felt character development lagged behind the two.

That said, I enjoyed many of the characters, like Jaewon, who meets Kira and later joins her party. He and his traveling companion Seung enter the scene shrouded in mystery, but they prove themselves to be vital to the mission (Jaewon is a skilled fighter) and provide a bit of comic relief. Jaewon becomes a trusted confidant to Kira. I loved their playful interactionssome of the few times we see Kira truly at easeand I really hope to see their affections for one another deepen in Warrior!

I’d also like to see more of the demon world. Prophecy has some great villains, including the traitorous humans who have allied themselves with the Demon Lord, but I’m a huge fan of monsters. We encounter demons of every size, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and I hope the next book brings us foes even more dangerous and terrifying.

I just have to give a final nod to Kira for being a fun and complicated protagonist. Everywhere she goes, the best greeting she can hope for from most people is pointing and screaming at her infamous yellow eyes. Still, she’s not resentful and stays focused on what’s important: her family, and saving the Seven Kingdoms. She’s also a kick-butt fighter and resourceful hero. My favorite moment is later in the book, when our intrepid band is running for their livesbut Kira goes back for the food! Seriously, when you’re on an epic journey, walking the line between life and death, you don’t leave the food behind. Good work Kira.

Prophecy delivers a fun and exciting romp through a magical world. I’ll definitely be picking up Warrior in the near future.

Title: Prophecy

Author:  Ellen Oh

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Teens and adults

Final Rating: Four out of five dozy foxes

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1 comment:

  1. Am I allowed to have a favorite part of a review? Cause I do:

    "My favorite moment is later in the book, when our intrepid band is running for their lives—but Kira goes back for the food! Seriously, when you’re on an epic journey, walking the line between life and death, you don’t leave the food behind. Good work Kira."