Esther Friesner's fanbase is growing. Readers who love girl-centric teen fantasy-adventure are happily following her from ancient Greece to ancient Egypt and now Third-century Japan. Himiko's world is falling apart. An attack by the Ookami clan has left many from her tribe dead or enslaved....
Himiko: main character; Princess; daughter of the Matsu clan's chieftain; friend of Kaya (stumbled upon Kaya's clan years ago--Kaya's clan took Himiko in for a time); has always had a bad leg--was often shunned by her peers/villagers as a child; returns to her village to find some of her family/clan dead and some taken hostage by the Ookami; much of her village is also destroyed by the recent war
Kaya: Princess; daughter the chieftess and shaman of the Shika; loyal friend to Himiko; considers herself a Lady Badger: tough, stubborn, and ready for a fight; hunts for the Matsu clan; returns to her clan
Lord Tsuru: chieftain and shaman of the willow people; tattooed face; thick white criss-cross scar on his left cheek; wiry man
Lady Iyoko: Himiko's cover story for her journey; chieftess and shaman of the badger clan; powerful voice that summons the spirits/avenging ghosts of the dead
Lady Karasu: Kaya's cover story for their journey; sister to Lady Iyoko
Gori: of the Inoshishi clan; broad-chested; brawny; big and imposing; wants to offer his help--knows the mountain paths well
Reikon: Himiko's spirit prince; she sees him in her dreams; she feels he is her true love (and hopes she can find him in the flesh as well as her dreams)
Nazuna: pregnant girl of the Inoshishi clan; bids the girls to take a bag of rice to the fox shrine on the other side of the mountain (she is actually sending the rice to her grandmother-Lady Ayame-who lives in the destroyed village near that shrine (another village plundered by the wolf clan)
Lady Ayame "Grandmother": proud woman of the hawk clan; the Ookami destroyed her village (1st one they destroyed); she has remained there with her 2 young grandchildren--even when Nazuna begs her to come to the Inoshishi clan with her; Himiko meets her along her journey; Himiko worries Ayame and her grandchildren will starve/die; Himiko blesses the dead/buried...so now Ayame can leave her village--join her granddaughter/Nazuna--over the mountain
Isamu: Lady Ayame's grandson; lookout for her/village; Yuri's brother
Chizu: Ryu's wife; kind; verbally abused by her husband--especially since she has not borne him a child; also verbally abused by Ryu's mother--especially when she can't get pregnant; kind to Himiko--helps her with the household chores when she can (when husband is not home and away from her mother-in-laws eyes); loves Noburo and treats him as a son; has a son (with the help of Lady Himiko and the midwife)
Lady Sato: Ryu's mother; rules her son's/Ryu's home (and, often, him); verbally abuses her daughter-in-law; treats her daughter-in-law nicer once she is pregnant; is fairly kind to Himiko--after Himiko foretells of Ryu's new child; tells Himiko that she--unlike her son--upholds tradition (which includes treating shaman with respect); loves Noburo and treats him as a grandson; allows Himiko to go often to the local shaman in exchange for the town shaman's servants each time Himiko goes; she believes the town shaman is inept; tells Ryu that Himiko and Daimu are in love
Ringi: Ookami shaman ("intern" ~ the master shaman is out of town at the moment); kind/respectful to Himiko; safely keeps the shaman tools taken by Ryu (at the time of her capture); encourages her teaching him what he needs to become a "complete" shaman; abruptly ends their teaching sessions (after he masters the lessons she has taught him ~ after the spirits speak through him and he tells Himiko he has feelings for her--her reply indicates she does not feel that way about him); fears Ryu and Lady Sato; feels betrayed by both when Himiko and Daimu marry
Master Daimu: returns to Ookami; meets Himiko on his journey home; is kind/respectful to her; sticks up for her to Ryu and his mother (they seem to fear him); earns Himiko's trust after allowing her to tend to his medicines (she knows he trusts her so she can do the same); allows Himiko time with her family (slaves in the Ookami village); loves Himiko; marries Himiko; saves Ryu's family during the earthquake: saves Himiko's brother during the earthquake
Ashi: servant in Daimu's shrine; cares for Himiko (as Daimu requests)
Arashi: Chizu and Ryu's newborn son named for Lady Sato's father--a great and strong warrior
Lady Ikumi: chieftess and shaman of the Shika; Kaya's mother; accepted Himiko into her clan as a lost child;came with Kaya to the Ookami village to help free Himiko and her people; negotiated with the clans along the way so that they would have an easier time freeing Himiko and her people
“My lord, we are strangers here...I don't blame you for mistrusting us. My father was a chieftain and his first duty was the protection of the clan. It made him more careful than other men, suspicious of anything or anyone that might harm us. So you see, I understand you.”
“I did not pursue you and your sister because I thought you were helpless females. I admire your courage for having undertaken this challenging journey. I don't think I could have done something so brave. All I want is to share one small part of your adventure by getting you through the mountain pass and beyond the oni's territory. Will you allow it?”
“If you keep talking about him, he's always going to be with you, like a sickness that can't be cured. You'll never be able to forget how powerless he made you feel...Whether he lives or dies back there, kill the memory of him once and for all.”
“I have eaten strange food and drunk strange water for too long, but at least my journey has taught me lessons of value gathered grom those who serve the gods in other clans. I am happy to share these new ways with our people.”
“If that were so, we would still live as we did in the time before we knew the gods at all...I have journeyed far and I have seen clans even more prosperous than ours. Surely you cannot deny they are doing something to earn so much favor from the spirits.”
Matsu clan: pine tree clan; Himiko's clan; recently fell at the hand's of the Ookami clan
Ookami clan: wolf clan; Ryu is chieftain of this clan; this clan recently destroyed the Matsu clan/village; Himiko returns to her clan to find homes destroyed, citizens killed/taken hostage, and emotions charged
Shika clan: Kaya's clan; they took in Himiko when she was estranged from her own family/clan
Inoshishi clan: the boar people; this is the last stop before getting to the Ookami village; the wolf clan is responsible for taking much from this village too--this is the second clan to fall to the Ookami
Taka clan: clan of the hawks; first village taken/destroyed by the Ookami clan
oni: Matsu's synonym for ogre; twice the size of a full-grown man with five times the strength; deep blue or bloodred skin; horns on their heads; tusks; claws and talons; and a spiked iron club for a weapon
Self-Discovery: Himiko's powers as a shaman grow: she is able to project the spirit world.
The Power of Women: Kaya and Himiko are both ultra strong characters. Each is considered to be important in their own rights (chieftan/chieftess daughters); however, each also strives to be even stronger role models for women throughout the novel. Himiko becomes a shaman (openly). Kaya is a strong hunter and tracker. Himiko and Kaya continue to speak their minds--even when, as women--tradition dictates, they should defer to the men.
Preserving knowledge and tradition: Himiko strives to protect tradition: one example is seen when she ensures burial traditions are followed for her family members who have died and for the Taka clan deceased; as a shaman, tradition and knowledge are extremely important to Himiko
Nature (Respect for Nature): all the clans uphold nature and rely on nature for all they have; Himiko is one with nature when she is in tune with the spirit world (i.e. speaking to the snake, speaking for the spirits, etc)
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