Golden Kamuy, Vol. 1 by Satoru Noda

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I actually never heard of, or seen this series before reading it. It’s just one from the (always) giant pile of random books I recently picked without reading the synopsis from the library. And I have to say I’m glad I decided to pick up so many unheard of books this time around, because I’ve found a few gems I know I’d never have picked up to read if I’d know what it was about before hand.

Synopsis: A recent war veteran dubbed Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto finds himself dishonourably discharged, and desperately searching the wild mountains of Hokkaido for gold in postwar gold rush 1904. Of course he finds nothing, except an old man with an interesting story: a ruthless man murdered a group of Ainu (Japanese First Nations), stole their giant pile of gold, and was caught and imprisoned. Of course once the secrete of the large gold mine got out, with all the people-government and otherwise- wanting a piece, escape became impossible. So what did this man do? In the hopes his friends with find them, he tattooed cryptic instructions of where he left the gold on all his prison mates with the promise to share with them. They stage a prison break, and succeed.

Now of course Sugimoto doesn’t believe a word, until a bear attack and dead body later, when he gets to see the unique tattoos himself. While protecting this body from said bear, help comes from an unexpected ally, an Ainu girl who’s father was a victim of the murdering thief. The two form an unlikely bond while surviving the bear attack and begin working together to hunt down the prisoners. One for the gold, the other for revenge.

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Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns

This was a very different story from what I’m used to reading, so I was surprised to find myself liking it so much. Despite the historical setting and mystery (two things I enjoy, just not together), the story line and where it’s heading were more than enough to make me change my mind. Things get a bit graphic here and there once they start hunting down prisoners, but things never felt needlessly gruesome. I gave it such a high rating for it’s uniqueness. The story may be similar to others, but incorporates a fair amount of original ideas- like the multitude of referenced info about Ainu people I loved learning. 

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I can’t say much about the setting since I know next to nothing about 1904 Japan, but I enjoyed the learning experience, especially when they took to the wilds. Noda gives tons of descriptions which made things feel more realistic. As for the characters, with the exception of one, I have no complaints. Sugimoto is a wonderfully complex ex-soldier who is decidedly unapologetic about taking lives if he’s threatened. Yet he’s also an intelligent, compassionate, and very capable fighter who shows hints of the recklessness and emotional instability born of surviving the horrors of war.

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Even one of the inmates and the hints of future antagonists, each having their own unique personalities, were fascinating to read/watch. Which all made the lack that is Asirpa, the young Ainu girl who becomes Sugimoto’s partner, pretty confusing. Though she’s clearly very intelligent and can hold her own in a fight, I found her fading to the background among Sugimoto and minor characters. I was pretty disappointed with her, but to be fair this is only the first volume. We get quite a bit of Sugimoto’s background, and learn about his motives and personality, so it’s my guess Asirpa, as the secondary main character, will be fleshed out as a character in a later volume.

Regardless this was a great read and I’m really looking forward to checking out the next volume. I actually have no idea who to recommend this to, seeing as how I would have never in my life picked this up. So I guess if anything I’ve said about his series in my review interests you, please give it a try! Thanks for reading =)downloadg.jpg 

 

 

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Arata: The Legend Vol. 1, by Yuu Watase 

This Review is Spoiler Free

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Completely disinterested. That’s how I felt about this series at first. I came across  this series a few years ago, took one look at the cover, and decided it wasn’t for me. I figured that was the end, but a few months ago I was forced into a game of Jack in the Box. No matter where I went- online forums, the library, Goodreads recommendations, random book comments- this series would make an appearance. To be honest it started to creep me out, and so (of course) I became interested enough to give it a try! I have never been so happy to be stalked by an inanimate object before 😃

Synopsis: On one side you have Arata. This young adult is the next in line to lead the Hime Clan- long line of females who, every 30 years, have proudly produced a new ruling princess for the kingdom. Only thing is…Arata is a boy.

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On the the other side we have the leading protagonist, Arata Hinohara, a regular high school student with great athletic skills and the grades to go with it, seems to just be starting over from a complicated past. That is, until said past seems to follow him to his new school.

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These two very different worlds clash when Arata (the Hime Clan leader), is falsely charged with the murdering the ruling Princess during a sacred succession ceremony and chased into the human devouring forest.

This is when Hinohara (the regular school student) takes centre stage. As the mysterious forest forces a body swap between these two characters, Hinohara finds himself in a magical kingdom being hunted down by the 12 Sho (12 chosen rulers welding the most powerful Kamui– gods in the form of weapons).    

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Rating: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

Needless to say this was an unexpectedly non-stop, action packed read. The action and adventure the series begins with only continues to increase as Hinohara finds his place in the new fantasy world, and discovers a power of his own. The characters, setting, dialogue (the humours banter was a real bonus), and touch of romance, are all things that came together to make this one of my favourite series.

A big part of what makes this series great for me is the main character Hinohara. The way he faces and overcomes his own weaknesses, quickly becoming a stronger person who does his best to actively grow and stick to his moral convictions is something that I find was approached/written beautifully (. I recommend this one to any action, adventure, and fantasy lover! 

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There is also a 12-episode anime version if you want to check it out. Though it covers only a very small portion of the manga, it does adapt most of the important parts (with a few changes of course) up until the last few episodes where events start showing up out of chronological order.

Half a King (A Shattered Sea novel) by Joe Abercrombie

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I’d be surprised if any of you actually remember (I certainly didn’t until recently lol), but some time ago I had made a resolution, which only lasted a couple weeks, to actually read some of my most neglected possessions. This is one of the many series I’ve had on my shelf for more than a year that I finally got around to reading. I’ve been hearing the hype about Abercrombie for a long time so, as I’ve yet to reading something by him, I decided this would be a good way to get back in to my forgotten resolution. Glad to say I’ve found myself another favoured author!

Half a King is an Abercrombie Y.A. fantasy series (a complete trilogy), and revolves around the young crippled prince of Gettland named Yarvi. The story begins as Yari studies to become part of an order of scholars, history keepers, linguists and anthropologists, geographers, and philosophers who’s craft is knowledge of all kinds.  These Ministers, who often act as advisers to high ranking officials and royals, live the kind of knowledge driven lifestyle that is everything Yarvi could hope for. Unfortunately, of course, things don’t go as planned as the night before Yarvi is to become an official Minister, his uncle brings the unwelcome news that both his father and older brother were murdered. This leaves the only remaining heir, constantly taunted and called “half a man“, to sit on the throne.

Rating: 9/10 Unicorns Horns!

This is a series I would recommend to most fantasy readers, as it has many of the elements that makes this genre so appealing: mystery, political power plays, betrayal, adventure, and a touch of darkness. This fast paced novel was honestly one of he best fantasy reads I’ve come across. Each and every character is this book was amazing. They stood out to me as unique in there own right. Yarvi, the underdog of this wonderfully crafted story, is an amazingly sharp and quick witted character that plays well to his own strengths and limitations. He felt quite human to me and even his weak moments were relatable rather than grating. His companions and other supporting characters, of which I cannot give too much away, were all…well except for one…people who I’d love to get to know more about and made me want to keep reading, sometimes even more than the actual story itself did.

I have more questions than ever after finishing Half a War than most other series I have read lately. It’s a pleasant surprise how much this book got me thinking, and how much I found myself excitedly trying to read into the smallest of comments, actions, and events thinking it might to a clue to the many mysteries this book held. I cannot wait to get on the the next one!

 

 

 

 

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 review 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. 

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 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 questions 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.

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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 overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

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

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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)

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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