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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Monday, June 6, 2011

MORI Kaoru's Bride's Story (manga)

I love this book. I read unlicensed scanlations of it online, and considered buying Mori's earlier series, Emma, just to support her, even though the story didn't captivate me.

So I was thrilled when Yen Press came out with a (hardbound!) collection of the beginning of the story, and immediately bought vol. 1. I can't wait for vol. 2.

What makes this so captivating? First it's the art. Mori draws in a shojo (think: really big eyes) style, but way off to the extreme of detail and style. There's none of the sparkly silliness, the super-deformed comedic moments, the school-uniforms-and-cherry-blossoms sameness of her art, or her subject.

Bride's Story is set around the Caspian Sea in the 19th century, with Russia and England pursuing their "Great Game" in the area, which impinges on the story subtly at first. Mori draws scenery like an Italian Renaissance painter, with details of hills stretching out to the horizon. I've never been to the Caspian Sea region, but now I want to go.

She also paid exquisite attention to details of costume, architecture, and material culture. Even were she to have gotten the details wrong, you can't help on reading this to admire the wealth of detail. I'm inclined to think she got it right, at least mainly, because of the elements that ring true to me, but I really don't know.

The story is full of challenges, difficulty, and warmth - even romance. (Yes, it's really a shojo manga!) But it's also full of action (at first, and often, provided by the bride of the title), which makes it look and read more like a shonen manga, for boys. But at its heart it's far more serious. It's really a grown-ups' story, or at least YA. The action and themes are mature, including the marriage in question (what's shocking to readers is the youth of the husband; what's shocking to people in the story is the age of the bride), and the relations between different groups of nomads and townspeople.

I've read through chapter 10 of the scanlation (which I am now avoiding because it's licensed in the US), and will definitely invest in the remainder of the series.

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