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Sea of Shadow: Book One of The Twelve Kingdoms    by Fuyumi Ono Amazon.com order for
Sea of Shadow
by Fuyumi Ono
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Sea of Shadow, the first in Fuyumi Ono's seven-volume long epic, The Twelve Kingdoms, is an exciting, fast-paced adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Helping to move the story along are a handful of stunningly-rendered illustrations, plus - as in most good epic fantasies - a map of the Twelve Kingdoms.

Yoko Nakajima is an ordinary Japanese student (except for her unexplainable red hair). She obeys her parents, works hard for good grades, and never causes any trouble. All this changes, however, when the nightmare she has been having for almost a month comes true. After a bizarre encounter with a golden-haired man, Yoko finds herself whisked away to The Twelve Kingdoms, a land filled with kings, talking animals, and demons on the other side of the Void Sea. No sooner has she arrived than she is captured by the local authority. Fortunately for Yoko - yet unfortunately for others - a demon attack aids her escape and she finds herself running through the wilderness of the Kingdom of Kou, avoiding both demons and locals. After months of traveling mostly alone, she manages to enter a more hospitable kingdom where she learns a lot about the land that she has found herself in, and even more about herself.

Ono does a wonderful job creating the fantasy world of The Twelve Kingdoms as the world and its rigid layout and government system unfolds throughout Yoko's journey. The creatures, whether good or bad, are well-described and I found myself knowing what most looked like before I would get to the illustration, as most of the fantastic beings appear in the scattered pictures to help bring the Twelve Kingdoms to life. Ono keeps the story moving by getting salient points across but not overly focusing on each minute detail and it's good that she keeps the plot fast-paced since Sea of Shadows (the first book of seven) is over 450 pages long.

While I thought Ono's setting and plot style-concepts were good, I was not fond of her choice for a main character. More often than not, I found myself angry with Yoko for the choices she made. It was not until the very end of Sea of Shadow that I realized why Ono made Yoko whiny and cowardly. Once the reasons became clear, I could see that Yoko was not such a bad protagonist as being almost an overly coddled brat gave her expansive room to grow. Also, even though I was mad at her, the story still drew me in, making me want to find out what would happen to Yoko. Sea of Shadow proves a very promising start to Fuyumi Ono's epic of The Twelve Kingdoms. Fans - teenaged and up - of fantasies with strong female protagonists will want to check out this book though Yoko may not seem like the typical protagonist for this type of story, stick with her and she will surprise you.

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