Review - Little Sister by Kara Dalkey

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Nazareth by Mychael Danna [The Nativity Story Soundtrack].

I'm cheating a little. This does not fit my "published after 2005" requirement, but for the sake of exposing more books of different cultures, I think that is okay. :) Here is the story of Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Little Sister
Originally Published: 1996
Current Amazon Rank: Irrelevant (out of print).
Pages: 208

First Line:

My name is Fujiwara no Mitsuko
and I am the little sister of Amaiko.
Goranu, who reads this over my
shouler as I write, says this
is unworthy - that I am much more.
But this is how I've seen myself,
esteemed reader, for much of
my life and especially in the
troubled times just past. Perhaps,
once you have read my story, you
and Goranu, too, will understand.

My Take: I am being very unfair to you guys. I will be dangling a carrot in front of your mouth that you can't possibly reach. This is one of the most wonderful simple reads I have come across, especially within YA fantasy literature. It is beautiful. It is transportive. It is also out of print. If you can find a copy at a decent price, I would highly suggest you take it. It is well worth it, I promise you. Below are the ISBN numbers to help make your search easier, if you so wish. I pray for you that your libraries have copies.

It takes place in medieval Japan, in 1100 AD, in a world so fantastic it almost seems like it could be real. And it has perhaps one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen (that statement still holds today). Victor Lee's work is stunning. You can actually catch a glimpse of our romantic interest in the kimono sleeve Mitsuko is holding (no, he is not quite human, but oh so cool. Eat your heart out Edward Cullen).

This story is unique. Maybe it is just because I am very close to my sisters, but the idea of Mistuko's adventure starting because she wants to rescue her beloved oldest sister's wandering soul (after her husband's brutal murder) is just so real to me. And her adventure only becomes more grand from there, with the help of a tengu (a "demon" bird-like trickster) named Goranu who can change his shape and is more than he first appears - in many ways. Her adventures even go so far as meeting Lord Emma-O, the Judge of the Dead himself. And her story continues in The Heavenward Path, which is not as mind-grabbing as the first for me, but for those who want to know more of her and Goranu's story, you will be eager to snatch it up. I certainly did.

Both Little Sister and The Heavenward Path are filled Buddihst lore and Asian mythology that adhere faithfully to their source material. They also delve into deeper issues of spirituality and philosophical problems that is not often seen in YA literature. How Mitsuko confronts these problems is neither sentimental or moralistic, which the author easily could have slipped into. Both are a refreshing, delightful read of a fully realized fantasy world.

The Final Word: A breath of fresh air from the standard fantasy story. The story and characters are immersive and real. Today, Goranu remains one of my top 25 favorite literary characters. One you do not want to miss, if you can find it.

Little Sister
ISBN (Hardcover): 015201392X
ISBN (Paperback): 0140386319


Vanessa said...

ooo... this does sound good. My library won't have it, but maybe I can get it on an interlibrary loan.

Heather Zundel said...

Not Nessie - Oh, I really hope so. Do read it. It is very good.