When only an eggfruit, the kirin of the En Kingdom, Rokuta, was transported to Japan for his own protection. But he was abandoned soon after birth by his surrogate parents, left to fend for himself in the mountains. It just so happened that at the same time, a young boy in the En Kingdom named Koya was also abandoned by his own parents, after which he was raised by demon beasts. Their similar circumstances aren't the only thing to bind these two boys, though. Twenty years after their abandonment, their destinies intersect, with potentially disastrous consequences for the En Kingdom. (Source: RightStuf)
Aaaaaand here we have number five in my list of stuff that I finished months ago but am only getting around to reviewing now. This time it's the third volume in the Twelve Kingdoms saga: The Vast Spread of Seas. This one I finished around January; and although I can't remember a lot of details, I do remember that it is a fantastic entry in the book series.
While the first two volumes were introductions to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, this volume is less interested in introducing new terms and concepts than it is in fleshing out a fully-realized, well-paced story. The first two volumes mostly focused on characters arriving at the Twelve Kingdoms and needing to adapt by learning the complexities that govern the world. And while the third volume also has characters from Earth (or "Horai") entering the new world and vice versa; the story really picks up when those characters are well-adapted to the world. As a result, it can focus more on the conflicts between people and and development of the characters.
Of course, even though the book is not introducing a lot of new concepts and the focus is more on the story; it is still maintains a certain level of World development that was part of what made the first two books so great. But it's more like this book develops previously-introduced concepts by revealing new aspects to them. We learn new things about he demons, as they adopt and raise an abandoned boy. We learn about the kirin and things like how to bind their powers. Those kinds of things give the setting depth and keep the story it fresh.
As with the other books, the characters here are complex, as are their interactions with one another. However, where the first two books were more about the main characters' internal struggles or their struggles simply trying to stay alive in the world; this one is more directly about conflicts between groups of people with different ideas about how the world should be run. But even more than that, there are interpersonal conflicts between individual people within and between those groups. As a result, this story is not quite as intensely personal as the first novel, and not as peaceful as the second. Instead, it strikes a good balance and maintains a well paced and well thought-out story.
If there was one conventional character in this book, it would be the King of En. He is the kind of character that seems laid back and irresponsible, but that ends up being just a misinterpretation of his keen leadership abilities, mental prowess, and concern for his people. But just because I've seen that type of thing before, doesn't make him any less compelling of a character. Unlike other characters of that type I've seen in anime and manga, he isn't masking his true motivations with an goofy facade. That goofiness is more of a result of his general attitude toward life, and is actually consistent with his motivations. And that consistency and honesty make him a stronger and more original character.
The one thing about having read this so long ago is that I forget some of the deeper themes and ideas interwoven into the story. For this book probably more than any of the Twelve Kingdoms book so far, I thought that certain parts of the story were supposed to symbolize different things. But now I can't remember what all of that symbolism was! There has always been the themes of working for people or working with nature, but I remember thinking of specific things that scenes were supposed to represent. So I guess my point is that this book has deep meanings, but I don't know what they are, so I guess you'll just have to trust me.
So anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say that all three of the Twelve Kingdoms book have been great so far, but also each of them has been very, very different; with each having a different tone but each also building more upon the world it takes place in. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next four book have to offer.