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Kitsune: A Little Mermaid Retelling (Tales of Akatsuki) Paperback – October 3, 2018
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- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Paperback : 264 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1724191365
- ISBN-13 : 978-1724191366
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.66 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Independently published (October 3, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,452,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There is definitely an emphasis on the fantastical. And Andrews throughs her own spin on the Yokai hierarchy, with main character Rin part of a Dragon Lord's service one of her enemies, Naoki, part of the guardian of the forest's retinue. The magic is usually transformational, strength and "sending out spiritual awareness" while the actual curses and magic are interestingly mostly done by a human witch who causes the most trouble in this story.
I have to admit, I got a little lost as to whom the witch might be helping and whom she might be harming. She ends up appearing to almost all the main characters and nudges them on one path or another. I also got a bit mixed up in the second half of the book because we're introduced to like four or five love-pairings. We don't spend enough time with any of them, except for Rin, the Kitsune main character, to really get to know them so I felt a little lost at times.
I enjoyed the first half of the book more that focused alot more on the love triangle of Rin, cursed into speechlessness and sent to sabotage the human Lord, Hikaru's, treaty with another powerful family for reasons we never end up finding out, Hikaru the already-married human lord, and Shin, the okami friend of Rin who secretly loves her. Watching them interact was fun. The world is believable enough as a fantastical Japan, sometimes the details (such as Hikaru's brother's name Hotaru, which could be a legit samurai name but not one I'm familiar with) were more on the imaginative side. But that's not an issue with enjoying the story.
But then we get a whole mess of other characters I hadn't grown to love yet, and as I mentioned above, that got confusing after a while. And part of that confusion might just be a personal prejudice of my own against multiple POV jumping. I don't mind a few jumps between two or three, but in order for me to really enjoy a story, I want to spend time feeling things from the main characters' perspectives. This one had us jumping into the heads of many of the main couples, so again, not necessarily something that other people would mind.
If you are a manga/anime lover, or enjoy Japanese mythology, you'll like this story.
I purchased this book (the start of the Tales of Akatsuki) some time ago because the blurb and the use of the Japanese mythology caught my attention. I am not a Japanophile, but that very lack of absorption draws me to explore stories unknown to me. Add to that the Kitsune as trickster figures, and this book won a place on my schedule. The piece it did not live up to in my opinion was the retelling aspects. Little Mermaid is one of those complicated tales that has both original and broadly known meanings that are in contradiction. How retellings explore those aspects can be fascinating, but the connection between this story and Little Mermaid is weak, resting mostly on a witch stealing the voice from a character’s throat.
Don’t let the last stop you from giving the book a try, though. It offers a complicated, multilayered tale about love, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice. The tone is mostly a fairytale lilt, though the characters are more developed than in traditional fairytales, and the world is early alt Japanese where the people are separated into competing clans and the fantastic have a place not just in ritual but also in reality. I don’t know Japanese folklore well enough to recognize themes and influences of known stories, but the tale offers the sense of a greater mythology just out of reach, something that gives the book weight. There are both plot seeds and red herrings to keep the story moving, too.
The cast is larger than I expected from the beginning focus on Rin and Hikaru. While it is their story, it’s also that of Shin, Rin’s best friend; Hotaru, Hikaru’s brother; and Naoki, a servant of the forest guardian, among others. The tale itself has feelers into the past with the mystery of Hikaru’s mother, and into the future as well, though the main focus is resolved in a manner I quite appreciated by the end of the book.
The book has a good number of writing issues that some will pass off as stylistic, but threw me out of the story at times. For example, there are comma splices (which is odd because there are also correctly used semi-colons), unclear pronouns, and cases where the POV switches for a paragraph or two, but not enough of the last to change the POV to multiple third from one POV per scene. Mixed in with this are some actual typos.
I also feel the story would have been served better by starting a few minutes earlier, when Hikaru offends the forest guardian and brings his party through the forest. Instead, it begins when Rin saves Hikaru in the forest with no sense of how he came to be there. We learn the full story in a later flashback, and it’s not the only key scene left out in favor of flashback or inference.
Those two issues are why this book gets a nod but not as enthusiastic a one as it deserves. Whenever the writing issues threw me out, the characters, political and emotional tangles, mysteries, and fascinating cultural elements pulled me back in. This book worked for me on many levels and it’s a pity that wasn’t true with every aspect.
Ultimately, the characters are complex and the use of a broad number of perspectives as well as showing the characters in action allowed us to both see when perceptions were misguided and the strengths within each of them, but especially Hikaru. Rin begins and ends the story in a very different place, but stays true to her core. One element I appreciated, though, is how the Yokai demonstrate different motivations from humans rather than being human with fox ears glued on.
While Rin discovers more in common with the humans in her time among them than she would have thought possible, she does not convert to a human simply because of her growing affection for Hikaru. The brother is another character who changes without changing. There’s a point where I considered him the villain, and some might agree with that assessment, but there’s more going on.
Meanwhile, the witch is an actual villain, but of the whole series. We see only pieces of her plan as she ensnares the others to do her bidding, but the scope and whether she’s been foiled still remain unknown. Everyone has reasons, motivations that drive them, whether known or not. This doesn’t make them good, it doesn’t even make them sympathetic necessarily, but it makes them more well rounded than I would expect in a fairytale.
I didn’t even get to mention the bargains and how you’ve never quite won what you think you have. There are many elements familiar to me from other cultures that crop up here, and the complexity is a wonder to behold. I’ve gone on long enough in any case. Despite its flaws, there’s much to enjoy in Kitsune and hope for the future novels where greater or just related stories wait to play out.
Top reviews from other countries
The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite fairy tales/Disney movies. In fact, it’s my third favourite. Aladdin being first and Beauty and the Beast coming in close second. This means that I hold retellings to a very high standard. Call me ridiculous, but that’s just me. But let me tell you that the retelling I have just completed surpassed all of my expectations. If anything, it has raised the bar.
Kitsune is one of the best novels I have read this year. And thanks to my gargantuan of a reading slump, I haven’t read that many. It’s a tale of love, war and betrayal, with a huge dollop of magic. I love me some magic. If I had to sum it up in one word, well, I can’t. That’s how good it was.
I went into to this novel not knowing much about and that is the best way to enjoy this novel. As much as I love the supernatural I had no idea what a Kitsune or Yokai was. I knew it was something do with animals but I did not fully understand what they were. But even with my lesser knowledge I cannot believe how much I enjoyed this book. It’s one of those novels that you just know will stay with you.
Nicolette Andrews, how talented you are. Is there some special potion you drink that give you magic writing powers? If so, where can I get some?
This is the first novel I have read by this fabulous author and it definitely won’t be the last. In fact, when I finish this review I am going to jump on Amazon and go on a book hunt.
Anyway on with the actual review.
The world in Kitsune is unique, magical, beautiful and, above all, one I don’t want to leave. The vivid descriptions brought to life many magnificent images in my mind. I didn’t know words could leave me like this. And don’t even get me started on the characters. But this is a review so I kind of have to.
Each character is brought to life in just a few lines. Every character is complicated but in the most beautiful of ways. Shin, for example. I liked him, then I hated him. And then I liked him again. This is the kind of power Nicolette holds. There were points in the book I where I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I have read many retellings where the plot is exactly the same as the original storyline. Kitsune did the opposite. While keeping the same elements as The Little Mermaid, Nicolette turned the story into something else. Going into it, I knew to expect the same sort of story but in actual fact, I found myself lost in a world bares only a slight resemblance to that of its origin. That’s what drew me in. The fact that Kitsune is a retelling that is not a retelling.
Towards the end of the book, I found myself reluctant to keep reading. I didn’t want the story to end. As I type, I am staring at my Kindle and I’m struggling to keep myself from diving back into that world. There was action in every chapter and right now, I’m struggling to keep the spoilers from presenting themselves on this post. The pace, oh my God the pace. It wasn’t too fast and it wasn’t too slow. It was just right. And now I feel like Goldilocks.
I highly recommend jumping to Amazon and grabbing this novel before it’s too late. I promise you, you will not regret it. If you do, then you obviously have no taste in literature. Nah, I’m just kidding. But seriously. Get. This. Book.
However, on starting there book, knowing next to nothing about Japanese culture, I found it hard going to start with, not fully understanding exactly what a Kitsune or Yokai was .. but I'm glad I carried on as the story itself has me hooked, never able to guess what would happen next ..
If you enjoy stories of the supernatural, witches and shape shifting types of beings then you'll enjoy these stories
But I have to admit I enjoyed the read, so much so I'd like more of the same, thank you for reminding me of childhood fantasy tales.