Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara. ★★★1/2
Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince is the sequel to the Japanese fantasy novel, Dragon Sword and Wind Child. However, it is set centuries or even millennia after the first book and so could be read independently. The main thread that ties the books together is the shared mythology and setting.
Oguna and Toko have grown up together, but Oguna has never known who his parents are. When the emperor’s son comes to their village, Oguna goes with him to train as the prince’s shadow. But when Oguna awakens a strange power, it is up to Toko to gather the magatama, beads with magical properties, and stop Oguna.
I mentioned in my review of Dragon Sword and Wind Child that the heroine was more passive than I prefer. That was true as well for Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince. Toko was presented as an active female lead, and she’s the one that starts on the quest to stop Oguna. However, it feels like in the end she doesn’t actually do that much. Some of what I initially thought she would do ends up getting given to various male characters, and by the end she feels almost redundant. Although she’s presented as a tomboy, her actual role in the book is the same as Saya’s – to be a source of guidance for the male lead.
The plot line and pacing also seemed oddly structured. The quest format works fairly well, but all interest and urgency seem to fizzle out by the end. The last hundred pages or so were the most boring in the book and seemed to be killing time more than anything else.
As with the previous book, the world and mythology were my favorite things about it. This one didn’t have quite the strength of mythology, probably due to being set so far after the first book, but it still had an “epic” feel to it that I enjoyed.
While I’ve grown tired of the series’s treatment of gender, there’s still much to enjoy about Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince, and it’s one I’d still recommend to anyone looking for translated fantasy novels.