About a year ago(!) I reported on the Balsa novel, Kami no Moribito, Part 1. It was far more complex than past stories – even more than the first novel in the series, with its ties to an alternate dimension.
In the first half of this story, Balsa finds herself helping two children from the Kingdom of Rota, whose parents had been killed and who were being sold to slavers. To save the younger of the two, Asura, Balsa had taken the girl and run, followed by her older brother Chikisa, Tanda and one of the King’s hunters, an old soldier and friend of Tanda’s, Sfaru.
As this book opens, Balsa and Asura are traveling with a troupe of actors. They’d both like to relax, but it isn’t an ideal situation. After the troupe is forced to hole up in a snowstorm, they are attacked by wolves – and for the first time, we see Asura draw down the god, Taru Hamaya. Asura slaughters the wolves. And we now understand why Sfaru felt so strongly about killing the girl. Chikisa tells Tanda about the night their parents were killed, Asura had become Taru Hamaya and killed all of the Rota warriors.
But there’s more to this than the children know – their mother was the lover of one of the Princes of Rota and Asura’s power could be a fearsome weapon with which to take the country over.
Once Asura and Balsa separate from the actors, Sfaru’s daughter, Shihana, manipulates the situation until she has Asura in hand – and, she thinks, Balsa’s dead. Even going so far as to involve one of the god’s servants, a woman named Iannu, an old friend of Asura’s mother. About the time we had the discussion that Triisha, their mother, moved them away from town so that Asura did not, in fact, become a servant of the god, I thought, “What kid is ever going to read this book?” It was so complex! And full of religious and secular politics. It did have Balsa fighting off a troupe of assassins from the depths of an icy river and later, nearly getting her throat slit, but still…..
I’m going to jump to the end, where the one really exceptional scene happens. The god Taru Hamaya is being called down for a ceremony that will lead to a set-up for the one Rota prince to kill the other. Unbeknownst to most of his servants, Taru Hamaya is coming for blood. And Asura is his vessel. So, with a huge crowd gathered to worship him, he appears and calls to Asura. Asura is racing towards Taru Hamaya, and finds herself being taken over by the god as she runs.
The crowd is chattering away, not noticing Balsa running after Shihana who is running after Asura. Asura fords the god’s river which flows out of Nayuk (the alternate dimension from the first novel, where it was known as Nayug in the tongue of New Yogo). Although she is well out of earshot, Asura can still hear the crowd, who are talking about the fearful god, the horrible god, and she just loses it. “You keep calling him terrible and horrible, but you are the horrible ones,” she says out loud. And the crowd goes instantly silent. Just as Asura realizes that the crowd can hear her whispers, she becomes the god. And starts to slaughter the crowd.
Balsa almost get killed trying to stop Asura, but it’s the girl herself who saves the day – she explains to the god that she does not want to hurt anyone, so he retires, sated.
In the end, Prince Ihan, saved from death and amazed and awed by the children of his lover Triisha, swears to treasure and protect them forever.
Asura, who fell into into a coma, as the final pages of the book close, almost 6 months after becoming the god, opens her eyes.
And I thought, “No really, what kid would read this book?”
It was so full of politics and adult maneuvering and serious violence, it would be a really rough read for a tween. Unlike the other books which would be an easy 12-13 year age range, I’d say keep this one out of the hands of anyone sensitive or too young. Also, the political bits were so *boring*. Yes, we needed them, but.
With this adventure, the Balsa series ends officially. The remaining books in the series follow Crown Prince Chagum. There may be cameos, and if there are I’ll let you know. But unless they are excellent cameos, we close the book on our favorite female bodyguard here.
We can guarantee one thing, however, with her and Tanda, it’s unlikely that they’ll live happily ever after in the conventional sense. I prefer to think of Tanda always being there to patch her up and welcome her home after her adventures. ^_^
Overall – 7
The good scenes were excellent. ^_^