The Book of Heroes

Title: The Book of Heroes
Author: Miyuki Miyabe
Pub: 2009
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy, Translation
Rating: Try it

"Consider a person's life," the Sage continued over her objection. "no matter that great deeds they might accomplish, they are merely creating a relaity, nothing more. Only when we have thoughts, and the telling of thoughts, and those thoughts become stories is the Hero first born. What we think, we tell, and are told - all are stories. But the Hero is the story that is the source of all the greatest deeds. The heroes who exist in your Circle all spring from this original story. They are like copies. The story called "The Hero" came first." (62)

If you've been reading my blog for quite some time, you already know that I'm not one to jump up and down for fantasy fiction. It's not that I would ever roll my eyes and refer to it as second-rate literature, which is evidently what irritates fantasy and science fiction readers the most - referring to the genre as pulp. I'm on another side of that coin entirely. Science fiction and fantasy has always seemed like the smart kinda books. Not to mention names with lots of consonants intimidate me the mostest (I bow down to you Russian Lit Lovers!)

But - BUT - I'm all hanging out in the Borders a few months ago and in the young adult section I see this GORGEOUS cover. Seriously, like Alice who drank a special potion to make herself smaller or larger, I wished there was a potion that could thrust me into the cover of this book. Yeppers. I picked it up solely on cover appeal.

In the most concise terms possible, here's the dealio on the story: Yuriko hears tragic news. Her beloved big brother has slain two students at his school and is now missing. Yuriko cannot believe this is possible. She loves her brother. And so does everyone else. Yuriko visits her brother's room, trying to make sense of the events or find clues. And a clue she sure did find. A talking antiquated dictionary named Aju. This leads Yuriko into a whole other realm, a quest, her own personal hero journey to find answers.

Allrighty then. I finished this book yesterday and am sorta on the fence with it. Firstly, it's a translation and I have got to wonder if perhaps the parts that were slow and less riveting and more stilted had less to do with the story being poorly written and more to do with the translation not always being spot on. I don't read a lot of translated books, but understand that this does occur. There were times when I would read this book right before bed and after a couple of pages I was ready for sleep. Also, whole chapters would go by and I would worry that I would never finish the journey.

But because it was Japanese there were a lot of philosophical aspects about the book that I digged immensely. Mainly, they refer to the Hero as an original story that becomes powerful each time it is experienced. (In a weird way, think of Freddy K. from Nightmare on Elm Street - he as "nightmare" is only as powerful as you make him). Secondly, which I find to be very much an eastern thought, when Yuriko is learning about the Hero, it is explained to her that Hero is two sides of one coin. The good of the hero is accompanied with the bad. Nothing is pure. I LOVE this concept. And because essentially this whole novel embodies this concept it makes me really REALLY like this book. Plus, I am a huge supporter that we are all storytellers, telling our own story. (I study narrative therapy heavily in grad school as it made the most sense). Our creation of Self, that which we externalize and internalize creates our own identity. Miyabe touches on this as well.

The characters were pretty nifty as well. Yuriko, obviously being the main character and 'hero', is eleven. Miyabe does a sweet job keeping her right there at that tween age. One minute she wants to be the badass sister who saves the day while the next she is hyperventilating, throwing a tantrum, and sobbing. Sky and Aju are both Yuriko's "servants" throughout this journey; she is also accompanied by Ash. All three have distinctive voices and contribute to the energy of the story.
Overall, a worthwhile read I think. I just don't know if I'd put it in the young adult section of a bookstore.


  1. The cover on that is gorgeous! I would love to try this book, but sadly it's not at my library. Maybe I can ILL it... I don't want to buy it though. It seems too iffy to buy.

  2. I agree with Amanda the cover is just beautiful, though I am not sure whether the book is for me.


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