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Twelve Kingdoms - Paperback Edition Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas (original 1994; edition 2010)

by Fuyumi Ono

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158475,572 (4.17)9
Member:Eurekas
Title:Twelve Kingdoms - Paperback Edition Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas
Authors:Fuyumi Ono
Info:Tokyopop (2010), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Japanese

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The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas by Fuyumi Ono (1994)

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Although I've previously reviewed this, I decided I'm going to write a new review for my reread.

This is my least favorite book in the series, although it was less emotionally draining to read than Sea of Shadow. The fantasy aspects of the world of the Twelve Kingdoms seemed to be less on the forefront here. Instead, the focus was on politics. It had its good moments, but the first half of the book was a slog. Also, unlike Sea of Wind, where I could see how the events of the book would fit into the more present-day history of the Twelve Kingdoms, there was very little here that seemed relevant to Yoko's time.

Book 1 was set in the present day, and Book 2 was set a few years before that. The Vast Spread of the Seas takes place 500 years before Book 1. Readers are introduced to two boys, one living in Japan and one living in the Twelve Kingdoms. Rokuta, the boy in Japan, is only four years old when he's abandoned by his parents so that the rest of his family can hopefully avoid starvation. It turns out that he's a kirin who was born in Japan, just like Taiki. He is found by his lamia and taken back to the Twelve Kingdoms. Koya, the boy in the Twelve Kingdoms, is also abandoned. He is found by a demon beast that, for some reason, chooses to take care of him rather than eat him.

In the book's present, Rokuta/Enki (I'll just call him Rokuta from here on out) is frustrated with Shoryu, his king, who seems too lazy and laid-back. This is why he doesn't make much of a fuss when Atsuyu, the self-proclaimed regent of Gen Province, has him kidnapped – he figures that maybe this will force Shoryu to finally pay more attention to his people. Unfortunately, Rokuta didn't consider that his kidnapping might lead to the thing he hates most, war and bloodshed. Occasional flashbacks show how everyone met and became the people they are in the book's present, 20 or 30 years later.

While I think those new to the series could start with either Book 1 or Book 2, I would strongly advise not starting with this book. Not only are the world rules explained in less detail, but Shoryu probably wouldn't seem worth paying much attention to. In the first half of the book, he seemed like a shoddy ruler, and his court was a mess. The advisers closest to him were excellent, but didn't trust him to do what was best for his kingdom. That included Rokuta, who believed that kingdoms would be better off without kings. Shoryu seemed remarkably unconcerned about the need for levee-building and the possible rebellion brewing in Gen Province, which only fueled his advisers' distrust in him.

I knew that Shoryu was actually a much better, sharper, and more intelligent ruler than he appeared to be, and I enjoyed the moments when he revealed this. All of his odd decisions and slacking off actually had a purpose. One thing that hit me during my reread, however, was how difficult Shoryu made things for himself by not cultivating his advisers' trust in him. I could understand why he'd want his enemies and the officials appointed by the former king to think him lazy and stupid – it meant they underestimated him. However, why not allow Shuko, Itan, and Rokuta to see more of what was really going on underneath the surface? After all, he let Ribi see that much, and as a result she was his most fiercely loyal supporter. Had Rokuta trusted him even half as much, he'd never have quietly allowed himself to be taken prisoner.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book: Shoryu's belief that rulers are nothing without their people, the deconstruction of the seemingly perfect and kind Atsuyu, Koya somehow managing to be a sympathetic character despite the things he did, and Rokuta learning to trust Shoryu more. Unfortunately, a lot of that didn't come together until the very end, so I mostly found this to be too dry and boring. I had a hard time staying interested in all the talk of levees, army sizes, and government officials.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Dec 8, 2014 |
The Vast Spread of the Seas is the third book in Fuyumi Ono's series of fantasy light novels The Twelve Kingdoms. In Japan the first two novels of the series were each released in two parts, technically making The Vast Spread of the Seas, published in 1994, the fifth volume of The Twelve Kingdoms. However, in the English-language edition of the series The Vast Spread of the Seas is the third volume. Tokyopop first released Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander's English translation of the novel early on in 2009 as a hardcover. Later that year it was released again in a paperback edition. Tokyopop's release of The Vast Spread of the Seas retains the illustrations by Akihiro Yamada. I quite enjoyed the first two books in The Twelve Kingdoms, so I was looking forward to reading The Vast Spread of the Seas.

The kingdom of En has fallen upon difficult times. The previous king drove the country to ruin and many of its people either died or fled during his vicious reign. Much of En became a wasteland and demons prowled the wilds. At first Shoryu, En's new king divinely appointed by the kingdom's kirin Rokuta, gives En's people hope for a better life. But much to the dismay of his ministers, it soon becomes clear that Shoryu would rather galavant about the country than focus on the kingdom's administration. Many of those in the provincial governments are also frustrated by Shoryu's seeming lack of motivation and the slow restoration of En. Atsuyu, the acting regent of the province of Gen, plans to take matters into his own hands if the king continues to refuse to address En's problems. With civil war brewing, Shoryu will be forced to abandon his inscrutable style of rule if he is to put an end to the rebellion and maintain the peace. But even then his decisions continue to confound those that serve him.

Although The Vast Spread of the Seas is the third novel in The Twelve Kingdoms, chronologically it takes place before the first two and isn't directly related plot-wise. However, the volume does focus on Shoryu and Rokuta who have played small but incredibly important roles in both Sea of Shadow and Sea of Wind. Reading the first two books does provide a little more insight into Shoryu and Rokuta's characters and what people think of them, but for the most part The Vast Spread of the Seas stands on its own. It explores their pasts, both before and after their association with En, as well as a critical period early in Shoryu's reign as the king. Because I have read the previous volumes in The Twelve Kingdoms I knew how some of the events in The Vast Spread of the Seas would ultimately end, but it was still very interesting to see how they played out and how Shoryu dealt with them.

A large part of The Vast Spread of the Seas delves into court politics and intrigue. Atsuyu's viewpoints are considered to be heretical and even dangerous, but his challenging of a system of authority that has failed its people is understandable and he raises some very legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, his criticisms are never fully addressed in The Vast Spread of the Seas. What is established is that Shoryu is a much keener ruler than he lets on and that he cares about his people immensely. Actions that seem to make no sense actually have significant purpose. He doesn't allow himself to be limited or constrained by what is expected of him as a king; Shoryu is incredibly creative and shrewed in his administration of the kingdom and very few people actually realize it. It's no wonder that he later becomes so admired and respected as a ruler despite his quirks and unorthodoxy.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Jul 10, 2013 |
This one started slowly for me but picked up quickly. Rokuta is the kirin of En. He was born in Hourai and as the youngest of his family in a time of war was taken out into the forest and abandoned. He is a reluctant Kirin and when he chooses the King he does so with much waffling, asking Shoryu several times if this is what he really wants. Shoryu is also from Hourai and is the heir to a sacked kingdom and a scattered people. He is dying when Rokuta offers him the Kingdom of En, which he does so partly to save him, as Kings heal quickly and live a very long time. In the beginning of this story we do not have the measure of these two, Shoryu seems lazy and pleasure loving and Rokuta appears to dislike the King and to be mostly fed up with governing and his chosen King. Then Koya returns. Koya is an orphan like Rokuta, also abandoned as a small child. He was raised by a demon and was terribly lonely for human kind until he was befriended by Atsuga, the son of the Governor of Gen. Koya and Rokuta met when they were children and formed a bond of sorts. Koya is sent to the King's palace by Atsuga to abduct Rokuta so that they can hold him hostage. Atsuga would like to be made regent over the King and to be given all the King's powers. These 4 characters and who they really are, their choices, their relationships and their actions are what this book is all about. I don't want to give away the plot so I will only say it is masterful. Well worth reading. Unlike the previous two this one has some humorous aspects. The relationship between Rokuta and Shoryu is priceless. ( )
  Eurekas | Jan 26, 2013 |
Book is wonderful; editor needs to be replaced. ( )
  auraesque | Dec 9, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fuyumi Onoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, Elye J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Alexander O.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yamada, AkihiroIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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At the far end of the world, there lies an ocean valled the Void Sea, which separates two distant lands, one to the east and one to the west.
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"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"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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