I wasn't all that excited to get to reading Spirit's Princess, in fact the book had been sitting untouched on my shelf for two years. I was a big fan of Esther Friesner's first two Princesses of Mythology, Helen of Troy and Nefertiti of Egypt. Asian historical fiction wasn't my forte, however, so I didn't really feel any push to finish this book. Then Friesner wrote another Princess of Mythology series, this time about an Irish princess, and that kinda shiz I'm into, so I decided to finally finish Spirit's Princess to get it over with and then jet off to Ireland.
If there's one thing I've learned about books, is that first impressions are almost wrong. I ended up loving this book.
One of my favorite things about this novel was its plot and how Esther Friesner paced it. Have you ever read those books where you spend like two seconds seeing the princess and the peaceful life she has, and then chaos ensues and that whole pretty picture is torn down? I hate those books, and thankfully, Spirit's Princess was not one of them. This novel proves that you don't need big battles and evil villains to create conflict. Most of the conflict here was caused by family dysfunction and the society the protagonist lived in. There wasn't a big bad antagonist to defeat, just the cultural norms of 2nd-century Japan.
Himiko, the heroine of the story, desperately wants to prove herself to her family, but because of an old family feud between her father and his sister, he won't let her be anything more than a pretty princess. That could've been completely clichéd, but if there's anything Esther Friesner's characters aren't, it's two-dimensional. Himiko's father was a stubborn old chauvinist, but when his backstory was revealed, you understood his way of thinking, even if you didn't exactly agree with him. Himiko's father also forbade his eldest son, Aki, from marrying outside of their clan. Of course, Aki proceeds to fall in love with a girl from the next village. Again, it sounds cliché, but it actually created this great tension in the story.
A few pages into the novel, you will take notice of Esther Friesner's wonderful lyrical writing. One of my favorite passages was this one below, describing the ascent of the sun:
There were also quotes from the novel that were worthy of a hipster Tumblr edit or a Pinterest post. If I was any good at Photoshop (which I'm not), I would totally edit and print them out then frame them.
In the end, there is literally nothing bad I could say about this book. Well, okay, the cover sucked big-time, but that's neither here nor there.
My rating: I am cuckoo for this book! 10/10