Born in Japan and raised as a human, Taiki is overwhelmed when he's brought back to the kingdom of Tai, where he's told he's a kirin. With little knowledge or guidance, he must trust his latent instincts to choose a king for the Kingdom of Tai from among dozens of men and women who seek the position. Will the frustrated Taiki, who can't even figure out how to transform into animal form, make the right choice? And more important, will he discover the kirin that lives within? (Source: Amazon)
This second volume in the Twelve Kingdoms light novel series is a bit of a change from the first one -- at least as far as the tone is concerned. The first volume has a lot more violence and covers some dark emotions like anger and mistrust. By contrast, this follow-up novel has very little in the way of physical confrontations or interpersonal conflicts.
While Yoko from the first novel had to fight tooth-and-nail to make her way in the world, Taiki literally has to do next to nothing when he arrives. He is pampered by priestesses and the only struggle he has is his desire to make them as happy as they try to make him. And that is all well and good, but it really makes for a pretty boring and tedious start to the book.
But if there is one thing that does tie these first two books together -- other than the setting -- it's the fact that the main character in both have very low sense of self-worth and need to overcome that in order to accept their part in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms. Taiki tries his hardest to gain the skills and knowledge to become a good Kirin but is distraught by the fact that he doesn't make any progress. And he fears disappointing everyone who has put their hopes in him.
So Taiki's journey is much more of a cognitive and emotional one. And even though the story is not especially nail-biting, edge-of-your seat suspense; there is a good amount of insight into human nature and the way people think and the role that fate has to play in people's lives; and for me personally there were certain parts of Taiki's character I could identify with. And as I progressed through the book and followed the characters and saw how they developed and their inner complexities, I did start to get more attached to them.
Of course, the best thing about these books is learning about the world of the Twelve Kingdoms itself. In this novel you get more details about how the system of choosing the king works, and how a Kirin is chosen. Learning those details, to me, is what makes this series especially worth while.
So if you are into fantasy stories and have already read the first novel and liked it, you might as well go ahead and pick this one up too. It's certainly different than any other fantasy series in the US, if nothing else. And if the anime series is any indication, there is plenty more good stuff to come in this series.