Legend of Akikumo by Dani Hoots
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Confession time: I’m an otaku.
For the uninitiated, that’s a die-hard fan of Japanese animation (aka anime). I haven’t been following the latest series as much as I used to, but the enthusiasm is still there. So in reading Dani Hoots’ Legend of Akikumo, I was definitely reliving that feeling of settling down for a new series. The tone reminded me of Inuyasha meets Rurouni Kenshin–a story of a traveling outcast with a long-term goal, accented by various smaller struggles along the way.
Ketsueki is a feisty and sympathetic protagonist. Rejected by her fellow kitsune (wolf spirits), she sets off on a journey to find her long-lost mentor. While many believe him dead, she is sure he is alive, although doubt does threaten to drag her down from time to time. Accompanying Ketsueki is a strange human who can see yokai (spirits) like her. It’s the relationship of these two, mirrored by her past relationship with her mentor that really drives the story. Ketsueki constantly struggles to understand humans, and often makes rash judgments. In both her present and her past–the book gives roughly equal pages to both–her traveling companion helps bring out the best in her. The book doesn’t dump lengthy backstory but reveals just enough to be relevant and interesting. Finishing the novel left me with that same feeling I got when I’d completed the first arc of a long-but-promising series.
The book contains a glossary at the start, filled half with terms I was familiar with from studying Japanese and half with terms I had yet to learn. There’s a lot of debate around how many non-English words should be used when English isn’t the language the characters are presumably speaking. My philosophy is to assume the audience has no experience in the language and save the non-English words for those terms which truly have no English equivalent. For example, there’s no good substitute for terms like kimono, but words like baka (idiot) could be translated. (Though most anime fans know the term baka as well as they know the term otaku.) I leave this not as a criticism but as an observation, since I know not everyone takes the same point of view. Many writers and readers feel non-English words should be used more liberally, and there’s certainly no right or wrong here.
Overall, Legend of Akikumo was a relaxing book with a strong set-up for future stories. It’s not meant to replace your favorite manga or translated novel, but it’s a pleasant accompaniment.
Rating: 4 out of 5
You can find The Legend of Akikumo on Goodreads
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