Random House, 446 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers
"Himiko the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future - one day this privileged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years - her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional."
I have read all of Esther Friesner's Princesses of Myth stories, whether they were about Helen of Troy or Nefertiti, and have enjoyed all of them. I definitely have enjoyed Nefertiti's story the best because Friesner exposed us to Egypt, a world that clearly isn't eurocentric, and I found this very refreshing. Typically I do not go for the books that have an Asian setting or something of the like, but ever since reading Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, I have been captivated by the setting, and Spirit's Princess may now have surpassed Nefertiti's story's excellence in my opinion.
The beginning of the book is definitely pretty slow. I would say that the first 100 or so pages dragged a bit, but they are absolutely essential in telling Himiko's story. Without that background of when Himiko was younger, we would not be able to truly understand where she came from. So, don't give up in the beginning. Keep pushing through.
I think why I like Himiko's story better than Helen's or Nefertiti's is that there is a clear purpose of what Himiko wants to do. She is a very strong-willed child, and eventually woman, that knows what she wants and is determined to go out and get it. In Friesner's previous books, it kind of seemed that both Helen and Nefertiti didn't have a clear purpose to their life and that some of the issues they had to face in their stories seemed a bit trivial at times. Helen's story definitely felt like that to me, while Nefertiti actually had some severe problems she had to overcome. With Himiko, I could simply feel how dire her situation was, and everything just seemed more important. Every action she made appeared to have a resounding effect on her tribe, and this made me care for the story and the characters so much more.
The characters are absolutely wonderful. I loved Himiko's spirit and spunk when she was young, and it was very enjoyable to watch it evolve as she got older. The spunk wasn't gone, it was just transformed into a purpose and a drive for life that was great to see. Himiko's brothers were all charming and made me chuckle at times. They definitely lighten the mood of the story a bit. Lady Yama... I absolutely LOVED her as a character! One second you can be laughing from something she said, and the next you can be amazed by the wisdom that spouted from lips that so easily joked. She was simply a delight.
If you are looking to pick up a book that has adventure, a strong female character, and a heartfelt storyline, definitely pick up Spirit's Princess!
Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.