Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

My name is Namima - 'Woman-Amid-the-Waves'. 

A character introducing him or herself is no hook, no matter what her name means. Well, if it meant something like, I-who-kill-indiscriminately, then perhaps. However we do not have to wait long for a hook. There is one in the third sentence:

I am a miko. Born on an island far, far to the south, I was barely sixteen when I died.

Not only is that last line the hook but it introduces something of the premise as well. A narrator that is dead should raise questions, though with people already overdosing on vampires and other undead novels, maybe not. Even though there are some interesting ideas on this opening page, like living amongst the dead, and that the narrator is very, very angry, this opening opens awkwardly with preamble, as evidenced with the beginning of the second paragraph:

This tale may be spun from my words but I speak for the goddess, the one who governs the Realm of the Dead. 

This also sounds a little campy. By page 2 I'm losing interest as the narrator begins explaining the etymological significance of the goddess's name and the vocabulary of some non-English language before succumbing to back story that begins:

I was born on a tiny island....

Wasn't that already mentioned?

First thing said:

"Namimia, you are not supposed to be here."

This first bit of dialogue comes in on page 14, so be prepared to wade through descriptive setting (poetic geology/geography) and back story.

This would have achieved a 50/50 pass for the third line, which after the tenth reading isn't as impressive as the first time around. By page 2 whatever hook there had been, disintegrates with etymology, linguistics and back story. I need forward narrative and a problem first; that is the only way I will care about back story later. Not the other way around.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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