Title: The Toki-Girl & The Sparrow-Boy
Author: Claire Youmans
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
This book was chosen as BOTD on onlinebookclub.org. Check it out here!
I am reviewing it as part of their reviewer rewards program. This does not affect my opinion in any way!
With their parents killed by an evil feudal overlord, who wants Azuki for the valuable feathers she produces when she is a Toki bird, Azuki feels she must flee. It’s all her fault, isn’t it? She is the one with the cursed ability to turn into a bird!
Shota, her brother, can become a sparrow, but nobody wants his plain brown feathers. Armed with information from their dying mother, he must reach his sister to tell her they will lose their inheritance and will no longer be able to live in human society unless they can return to claim it!
While Azuki searches for her Toki-kin, encountering Egrets, storms, a fierce mountain ogre and even a dragon, Shota, smaller, slower, follows a dream of his late father to track his sister to the Toki nesting grounds, discovering in himself a love of the sea, and a way to get them home in time.
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What an enjoyable and quick read this was! It turned out to be so much more than I had expected; more than just a Japanese fairytale. There is political tension and upheaval as Japan is on the cusp of change brought about partly by their interaction and trade with the Americans and Europeans. There are lessons about love, friendship, sacrifice and family all cleverly woven within the overall story arc.
I love the idea of a bird-girl and bird-boy and how love played an intrinsic part in their’ becoming’ more humanlike. Their parents fervent belief and goodheartedness rewarded them with these Toki children and they readily accepted them for who they were, showered them with love and protected them when it became necessary to do so. They made a huge sacrifice to ensure that Azuki and Shota, the toki-girl and the sparrow-boy, would have a future and each other.
The novel flows beautifully and is fast-paced. The prose is concise and clear and one feels as though they are being drawn into this world. The main characters are relatable, flawed and memorable and I admired their strength and resilience. I loved the fairytale-esque quality mixed with the contemporary feel and my only negative remark is that the ending felt rushed compared to the rest of the story.
Overall, The Toki-girl & The Sparrow-boy is a clean tale that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and I even read parts of it out loud to my 3-year old. It’s a lovely, somewhat lyrical tale that is simply magical made more interesting by the tension caused by the political upheaval. I thought it was absolutely delightful and plan on reading the other two books quite soon.