Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel reviee but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King Il, is a pampered young lady, but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. On the night of her birthday Yona ends up witnessing the assaiassassination and usurpation of her father, and with the help of close childhood friend General Son Hak, the two manage to escape Hiryuu Palace with their lives. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy, the whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I honestly loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this story plays with the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation asap.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades and impending fight to regain all that she’s lost soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. That’s in later installments, and since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

I Hate Fairyland Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

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LMAOOO!!! I’m still slightly new to the American comic book world -as much as I love the stories I’m admittedly a little afraid of all those Marvel volumes- but had started picking up and collecting some Image Comics to start with. I don’t have much to compare it to, but as a fan of comedic TV shows and movies I have to say that this is a good pick that caters to my type of comedy- sarcastic, a bit witty, crude and unapologetic. I’d recommend this to any fan of satirical comedy shows like Futurama, Family Guy, or Robot Chicken. I look forward to the 2nd installment and give it 8/10 Unicorn Horns

The story, pretty self-explanatory considering the title, cover page, and opening quote:

It was a nightmare. Nothing but the green of her hair…and the blood of my people.

– Thaddeus J. Star, R.I.P.

Is basically a parody of fairy tales in general, so on occasion you’ll recognize themes/elements from scenes of well known fairy tales. All within the first 6 or so pages you get a bit of an Alice in Wonderland parody where a young 6 year old named Gert is whisked away, yelling and screaming, into a fairlyland. After a brutal and very bloody landing, the Queen of Fairyland sends her on an epic journey with an optimistic looking fly named Larry as a guide to find the magic key that will open a door to her way back home. On the 7th page, 27 years later, we have a now alcoholic looking Larry and an angry and psychotic looking Gert floating on a magic boat, flipping off and threatening the moon (in creative curse words I have to say) for insulting her. After she successfully…and very, umm, violently expresses her feeling for the moon the story goes on to follow the hilarious and always eventually violent adventures of the certifiable 47 year old woman trapped in a 6-year-old girl’s body.

I enjoyed this comic quite a bit. Gert is an incredibly insane and violent character that was a lot of fun to watch, and Larry, the straight man and unwilling side-kick, well…there’s not much to say about him to be honest, but his stoic ways do compliment Gert’s expressive homicidal ways quite nicely. The story line is nicely creative in some places and predictable in other ways, Gert will always do something crazy/stupid, but even then I was often surprised with the “how”. You may be able to tell she’s about to demolish a town, but really anything goes when it comes to how she’ll do it. I enjoyed meeting the host of other random and often hilariously creative characters and creatures, but more than that I loved the art. I’m a big fan of the style and have to say I really loved all the vivid colours used as well. 

The Heroic Legend of Arslan By Yoshiki Tanaka (Story) & Hiromu Arakawa (Art)

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As an avid fan of Fullmetal Alchemist I had to pick this one up. Even though the author for the incredible Fullmetal Alchemist series, Hiromu Arakawa, was the illustrator and not the author, this series was something that still had to be done. I’m not a big fan of historical-esque fiction outside of the occasional dramatized film so I was a bit hesitant once I read the premise, but Arakawa’s name and art easily won me over. Though The Heroic Legend of Arslan manga is based off of a fantasy novel series of the same name by Yoshiki Tanaka who based the novels off of the popular 19th century Persian Epic Amir Arsalan, from what I’ve looked up the Japanese version, at least so far, doesn’t follow it’s original too closely. Either way I can now say that, along with Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, this has actually made me interested in possibly expanding my reading preferences to include actual historical fiction in the future. 

The Heroic Legend of Arslan follows the journey of the young crowned prince of a vast and prosperous country called Pars. After an unlikely encounter with a child solider from an opposing army, Lusitania, and by encounter I mean after being held hostage by the child and dragged across the city, the young prince Arslan becomes aware of the ignorance being raised in the wealth and comfort of Royal Capital of Ecbatana has granted him. It’s this encounter that makes the young prince, unreasonably scorned by both his parents, curious about the nature of slaves, the equality of men, and the acquisition of wealth within his country. Unfortunately for Arslan this prosperity doesn’t last long, as a few years later, much to the surprise of everyone, the country known for its undefeated army falls to the Lusitanian enemy in battle. This fall sets the young prince on an epic journey to reclaim what is rightfully his.

I’ve only read the few volume so far, but at the end of each I immediately wanted to know more. It isn’t, at least not yet, an epic story that can be compared to Arakawa’s previous work, but I find myself oddly drawn to the story and the odd ensemble of main characters. Arslan is the type of character I find myself compelled to watch despite having the type of personality I’d usually view as simple. At first glance he’s the typical kind, good-natured, laid back, well-meaning, albeit ignorant and weak would-be-prince, but as time progresses he begins to reveal other traits- a subtle but very strong and powerful will, a rational mind with the ability to put sympathy aside if his intellect doesn’t reveal another way, and a commanding presence that somehow still expresses humility. He may not be the character with the highest skill in fighting or strategy, but he can definitely hold his own in both categories. The host of other characters- a fierce and epic fighter as well as former Captain, a painter and former Lord very famous for his very high skill in strategy in battle, along with his young helper: a jack-of-many-trades, the priestess of a nearby Temple and excellent archer, a travelling minstrel skilled with a sword and in deception, and a bit later on the heir to an infamous pirating clan.

As I’ve watch both seasons of the anime adaptation, which so far follows the manga pretty closely, I know the plot becomes much more complex with the revelation of the hinted at plot twist, incredible tactics, many interesting characters and scenarios, and quite a bit of character development on Arslans part. The Heroic Legend of Arslan is, overall, a very charming story about the adventures of a young prince overcoming his own ignorance by discovering his country and the customs of the lands surrounding it, by delving into his culture, and by accepting the right and wrong of his father’s reign and what he will and can do to bring about change once he takes the throne. 

7.5/10 Unicorn Horns overall

 

 

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke was a pretty enjoyable fantasy read for me, and meshed together a lot of different fantasy creatures-from magicians to mythical creatures- into a successful adventure story teeming with magic and it’s share of romantic tension. Within the first two chapters we get the main character, a 16yr old pirate woman named Ananna of the Tanarau, running away from an arranged marriage to Tarrin of the Hariri, the son of Captain Hariri and head of the notorious Hariri pirate merchant clan. Unfortunately for Ananna crossing the Hariri clan is something that just isn’t done, and she soon finds herself running from a man thought to be nothing more than a fairy tale: an assassin. Interestingly enough through an unexpected series of events  Ananna and this assassin find themselves magically bound to each other through a curse. I won’t go into anything more but the first few chapters had me interested, and the next few had me hooked.

Though the main character’s personality and attitude did get on my nerves sometimes (okay, her occasional counterproductive stubbornness downright made me want to strangle the living daylights out of her), overall Ananna was a likable character. She’s a strong, determined, and emotionally honest character which I LOVED, especially since this meant a significant lack of angst, and who would usually do as she pleased when she wanted (a true pirate at heart…minus the honesty), but wasn’t so full of herself that she would disregard or mistreat the people around her. Thankfully my issues with her lessened towards the end of the book and in the second installment. The other main character, Naji, though not entirely unlike Ananna in the stubbornness area, was a bit more likable in my opinion and I really enjoyed the way Clarke slowly revealed the mystery enveloping his character.

Regardless, the other characters (who I can’t really mention without spoiling something) I loved getting to know, and the story was good. I struggled for some time as to whether this would go on my favorites list or not, and ultimately decided not too add it. This was not because is isn’t a great story filled with enough fantasy, action, mystery, romance, and adventure to keep most interested, it just started to fall short as a series on a whole. Assassin’s Curse is in my opinion a successful fantasy series, and deserves some love, or at least a chance. It just fell a bit short for me towards the end. Not so much that it took a lot away from my enjoyment, but just enough that I couldn’t justify putting it next to other series I know I enjoyed a lot more.

Overall 7/10 unicorn horns