So I thought this was going to be a short one, because, well, the book is pretty short, and I didn't think I had much to say about it. Then I started writing, and NGL, totally fangirling, but I don't even care, because this series is fucking awesome, y'all. While Moribito isn't perfect, it was a genuinely pleasurable reading experience, and I would gladly commit gratuitous acts of imaginary violence to have more like it.
For those who skipped the summary, Moribito is the story of Balsa, a thirty-year-old bodyguard, who is tasked with protecting a prince after it's discovered that he carries a water spirit inside of him, which must hatch in order to prevent the country from suffering a terrible drought. The book follows their quest to ensure both the survival of the prince, Chagum, and the development of the spirit within him.
The thing you should probably be aware of, as a reader, is that Moribito is, for the most part, a children's book. I've seen it on some urban fantasy lists on Goodreads, and expecting it to be something along the lines of, say, the Mercy Thompson or even Vampire Academy series isn't quite accurate. It's a fairytale, a fantasy adventure for children, with all of the sweet magic, creatures, and world-building that this implies. That doesn't mean that it's not still enjoyable for adults, but it's definitely not the GrittyGrittyMurderANGSTSexLoveManFest that a lot of UF titles are. Think of it like a Pixar movie - it works for kids, but has enough meat and emotional relevance to appeal to adults as well.
The prose, storyline, and focus are simpler. The side characters can be a little flat. I'm not sure if it's a result of the translation, or the prose itself, but the writing can be heavy on the "tell" side, and there are more than a few eyebrow-raising anachronisms that I suspect might be the result of localization. The story isn't terribly complex or deep.
But - and it's a big BUT - Moribito is more than worth the read for the joy of it; for the main characters, for their problems, for their bonds and their journey together, and oh sweet baby Cheesus, for Balsa.
I love Balsa. Over the course of two books and one anime series, she's easily become one of my favorite characters, and you'll all be receiving invitations to witness our glorious marital union within the month. There is just so much about her that is awesome: she's thirty, she's a bodyguard, she has lines on her face and bags under her eyes, she's honest and brave and noble, she can take out a team of highly-trained assassins on her own, she's rough around the edges, and holy fucking shit of surprises, her life does not revolve around romance, but she loves and defends the people who've collected around her and become her family.
Balsa is basically the kind of female hero I want to read about more often. She's so wonderfully competent, at her job, in the decisions she makes, as a leader, that it makes me want to cry, and not a little because truly competent female heroines are so rare...
Read full review at You're Killing.Us