Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

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Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Author: Nahoko Uehashi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4035401506
325 pages
16.0 x 22.0 cm / 6.4 x 8.8 in (WxH)
Category: Children & YA
Ages: 10+
Publisher: Kaisei-sha Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 1996
Awards: Sankei Children's Book Nippon TV Award, 1997
Noma Prize for Children's Literature, 1996
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Balsa, a spear-wielder, is now thirty. Forced to flee her homeland with her foster father when she was six, she has made a living in the kingdom of New Yogo as a bodyguard-for-hire. One day she happens to save the life of the Second Prince?the eleven-year-old Chagum. That night, Chagum’s mother, the Second Queen, invites Balsa to the palace to thank her for rescuing her son, and reveals a shocking secret: the incident that day was not an accident; a mysterious “creature” of some kind has recently lodged in the prince’s body, and as a result, his father the Mikado is attempting to have him assassinated in order to prevent word from getting out and threatening the very legitimacy of the imperial family. Well aware of the dangers that await her, Balsa agrees to protect Chagum, and slips out of the palace with him. They are immediately pursued by the Mikado’s assassins . . .

Thus begins the first volume of an expansive ten-volume fantasy series in which the events of two different worlds?the physical world in which people reside, and an invisible spirit world?intertwine.

Besides protecting Chagum from his pursuers, Balsa must determine the nature of the entity that resides in the boy lest it also be a danger to him. She is aided in this by her childhood friend Tanda, a healer, and his elderly teacher, the “magic weaver” Torogai. The keys to solving the riddle are ultimately found in the ancient legends of the Yakoo people?the people to whom the Nayoro Peninsula originally belonged before being settled by the New Yogoese two hundred years ago?and in records placed in a secret archive by Master Star Reader Nanai at the time of the nation’s founding.

It becomes clear that the object in question is an egg laid by the “keeper of the water” Nyunga Ro Im. Yakoo legends say that such an egg is laid once every hundred years, and when it hatches at the time of the midsummer solstice, it brings rains to end a drought. However, if instead the egg is eaten by a mysterious creature known as Rarunga the Egg Eater, then the drought will go on for years. Far from being threatened by the egg, Chagum is in fact its moribito, or guardian. The question for Balsa is not how to protect Chagum from what is inside him, but rather, how to protect Chagum and the egg from Rarunga in order to ensure that it hatches safely and releases the rains. Unfortunately, whatever the legends may have once said about that has been lost to the mists of time.

Back in the capital, a blunt message from Torogai, whom the Mikado has also been trying to assassinate, leads the current Master Star Reader and his young protege Shuga to realize that the Official History on which they have been relying does not contain the truth about how Rarunga was defeated two centuries before at the nation’s founding. The Master Star Reader reveals the existence of Nanai’s secret records and asks Shuga to search them for any clues to what actually happened. Written in old script, the records are very difficult to decipher, slowing the search. By the time the joint efforts of erstwhile enemies Torogai and Star Reader bear fruit, Rarunga has picked up Chagum’s trail in the forest and a life-or-death battle is in progress between the demon and Chugum’s protectors . . .