Today I will be reviewing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy by Claire Youmans. This will be the first book in the box set, Coming Home.
Azuki, the girl who can become a Toki, races across Meiji-era Japan to join her bird-kin. Her parents dead, herself hunted because of her beautiful feathers – what else can she do? Shota, her Sparrow-boy brother, hurries after her. They must return to claim their human status or spend the rest of their lives as human outcasts. Shota know they need to be able to live as both human and bird. Ghosts, ogres, dragons and talking horses – nothing can stand in their way. Shota has to find his sister and get them home in time.
When they arrive, there’s war brewing over the domain. They’re not home safely yet.
As soon as I started reading this story I knew it was a real winner. The characters are very well written and engaging, and their unique abilities are interesting enough to really bring me into the story and make me feel for the characters. Azuki can morph into the Toki bird, which is rare and elusive, and she's going through a lot of adventures with her brother that are fun and interesting.
This is some of the better fantasy world development I've seen in a long while, and I liked the way in which everything was described and how vividly I could picture it all in my head. It is the history of Japan, wrapped in a mystical fairy-tale retelling, and I was more than a little impressed by how well the author managed to mix reality and fiction. It felt like the scenes came out of a history book despite the fantastical elements.
Claire Youmans is a real talent in the industry, and I'm sure that the rest of the books in her series are at least this good, and despite the occasional smattering of rough content (murders, death, etc.) this is a perfect book for teenagers and kids in middle-school.
All in all, I will rate this story as a five and applaud the author for putting together such a brilliant thing for children. Stories like this can help a lot with growth and development, and being able to learn along the way is just an extra added bonus that cannot be understated. Well-done!
Go out and pick up your copy today! Highly recommended story!