While browsing through the library I came across this very enjoyable set of books.
The books are a translation of Japanese author Kaoru Kurimoto’s highly popular Guin Saga. There are a total of 100 (!) books in the series, and the first several have been released stateside.
The story thus far centers upon two royal family children who are fleeing from their recently conquered homeland. In a hostile forest known as the Roodwood, they come across a dying gladiator-esque man who has a leopard head somehow “stitched” over his own face. After nursing the man’s wounds, they learn that he has no memory of who he is, where he is from, or why this animal’s head was placed over his own. Every attempt to remove the mask fails.
The rest of the book involves the trio attempting (and failing) to flee from the Gohran invaders, and their plague-ridden keep-lord Count Vanon of Stafolos Keep, who has a curious wasting disease and an evil miasma about him. The first book in the series is basically an escape tale that sets the foundation for further books. Although the story centers squarely on a very small set of characters and locations, there are references to various political intrigues that will certainly be investigated in future books. And, of course, there is the entire question of Guin and the mysterious mask he wears.
The books are wonderfully translated and are very quick reads. Each novel weighs in at around 250 pages. The most interesting components of the books are definitely their characterization and pacing. Most of the lead characters are enjoyable, and the story moves at a breakneck pace. The diseased Count Vanon is an especially entertaining character. I also loved the dichotomy and tension between the corrupted leaders of Gohran and their honorable knight class of warriors. Unlike many novels I’ve read recently, there is no sense of filler unnecessarily bloating the story.
Called “The Japanese answer to The Lord of the Rings” by The Globe and Mail, it is a truly disturbing and dramatic piece of literature. Don’t go in expecting the complexities of George R.R, Martin. These books are less complex are far more accessible. They also seem to be rather episodic, which will make them good for people who cannot devote large amounts of free time to reading.
A couple brief reader reviews are here: