As previously mentioned, The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn is much longer than any of the other books in the series (as it exists in English). Combine that with my continuing move, unforeseen issues, and now overtime, and you can understand why it’s taken me so long to read. Well, the overtime just started today, so you can expect books to take even longer to complete than usual. Especially given that I’m strongly considering an omnibus for my next read – three books in one cover.
Anyway, I said that Skies of Dawn featured three main characters instead of one. We have Yoko again, the Glory-King of Kei, Shokei, the former princess of Hou, and Suzu, a kaikyaku living in Sai. I omitted the term kaikyaku before, favoring taika for people like Yoko and Taiki. Taika, as a reminder, are people who should have been born in the Twelve Kingdoms, but were swept to our world by a shoku. If they return to the Twelve Kingdoms, they shed their “shell” appearance that resembled their foster parents and regain the form they were meant to have. Kaikyaku, in contrast, are people of our world who are swept away to the Twelve Kingdoms by the shoku. They can learn the language if they dedicate themselves to it, but otherwise are completely adrift in a land that only superficially resembles what they know.
Suzu is from the late 1800s. Her family sold her for a bit of money and one less mouth to feed. As she was being taken to her new home, she fell off of a cliff and the next thing she knew she was on a boat in the kyokai. She ended up doing general work for a troupe of traveling performers before discovering that sages (people on the divine registry) can understand her. Begging the woman to take her as a servant, Suzu ended up spending the next hundred years working for an abusive master.
Shokei, on the other hand, is a native to the Twelve Kingdoms, and whose father was chosen by Hourin to become the King of Hou. Known as the Ridge-King after his death, he was slain by one of his provincial governors who recognized that he had stepped off the Way and that things would only get worse. As a Princess, Shokei was spoiled rotten, but was not so guilty that she was forced to join her parents and Hourin in death. (Note: the kirin was not actually guilty, but this was her second king. People are only so forgiving.) Instead, Shokei was treated like an orphan and sent to live as an ordinary girl.
Both of the new characters have a lot to learn, and we see them grow and change throughout the book. Yoko doesn’t necessarily change so much as try to learn more about the kingdom and people she now rules, so that she can be a better and more effective monarch.
Sadly, that’s all the Twelve Kingdoms I can read at this time. As mentioned, I’m thinking of a longer book next. Depending on how long it takes me to read, I may consider doing a different kind of post in the interim. If I were to do so, what would you be interested in reading?