Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, Nahoko Uehashi   

This  was kind of a weird little book but I totally dug it. Moribito II presumably picks up where Moribito I left off (I haven’t read the first installment but I plan to).  Our intrepid hero Balsa is returning to her native land after a 20 year absence to speak with the family of the foster-father who whisked her away to safety and raised her.  When she discovers he’s been defamed as a traitor Balsa is determined to set things right, but ends up in the middle of a tangled plot involving old lies, family ties, and plans to overthrow the kingdom under the mountain. 

Now apparently this book was originally an anime series, and I’m a nerdy little anime lover myself.  Anime has such a wealth of strong female characters and Moribito II is no exception. Balsa is a ferocious warrior, but she’s also complex and interesting to watch as she struggles through her relationship with Jiguro, her foster-father, and how to deal with the sacrifices he made for her and the ways it affected both of their lives. The plot of this book was absorbing. I enjoy reading/watching work by Japanese artists because there’s generally an element of spiritualism that I think adds more depth to the story than typical children’s works. Moribito has this same spiritual element, along with a consideration of family and clan loyalty. This is a series that I’ll definitely be following from now on. 

I'd read it again on a rainy day