The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 2: Sea of Wind

~written by Fuyumi Ono
~translated by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander

Sea of Wind is the second novel in Tokyopop's English-language release of Fuyumi Ono's fantasy light novel series The Twelve Kingdoms illustrated by Akihiro Yamada. The novel was originally published in Japan as two separate volumes, both of which were released in 1993 under the title Sea of Wind, Shore of Labyrinth. Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander's English translation of Sea of Wind was originally published in hardcover by Tokyopop's Pop Fiction imprint in 2008 before being released in a paperback edition in 2009. I very much enjoyed Sea of Shadow, the first novel in The Twelve Kingdoms, and so was looking forward to reading the second volume a great deal. Technically, Sea of Wind is a prequel of sorts. Although they are not directly related, the events in Sea of Wind take place before those explored in Sea of Shadow.

Before his birth, the kirin of the kingdom of Tai was swept away by a great shoku, a terrifying storm that rips between worlds. Although the search for him began immediately, it is an unprecedented ten years before the kirin is able to be found. Having been lost in the world Over There, Taiki's return to the world into which he should have been born is celebrated. Taiki never really fit in Over There but because he has been gone for so long he doesn't quite fit in in the world that is welcoming him home, either. He has much to learn about the world he now inhabits and, more importantly, about himself. The kirin play a critical role and Taiki is desperately needed by Tai. But without the knowledge and powers that should have come naturally to him, Taiki must first conquer his own inadequacies before he can fulfill his role.

After the initial chaos surrounding Taiki's disappearance, Sea of Wind begins fairly benignly. Taiki's welcome home is a warm one and he is treated very kindly. But as the novel progresses danger and darkness are introduced to the story. The portrayal of Taiki's growth as a character is particularly well done. His fear, confusion, and distress is almost palpable as he struggles with his newly discovered obligations and responsibilities. Taiki is plagued by doubt and guilt. He wants to please those around him and is terrified of making a mistake. He can hardly be blamed--the fate of an entire kingdom rests on his tiny, inexperienced shoulders. Most of the other characters aren't nearly as well developed as Taiki, but Sea of Wind really is his story more than anything else.

Although Sea of Wind is the second book in The Twelve Kingdoms, it stands quite well on its own. However, there are some scenes that will be more meaningful to someone who has read Sea of Shadow as well. In particular is the appearance of Keiki, another kirin who was introduced in Sea of Shadow. He plays an important role in Sea of Wind, too, and his interactions with Taiki are wonderful. A few of the other characters from Sea of Shadow also make their return in Sea of Wind, which I was very happy to see. As for the story itself, Ono still has the tendency to infodump from time to time. However, I find the world of The Twelve Kingdoms to be so fascinating that I usually didn't mind too much. I am still thoroughly enjoying the series and am looking forward to reading the next volume, The Vast Spread of Seas.

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