Allison's Book Bag

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara

Posted on: June 10, 2010

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara reads like the classics that I grew up with and which turned me into a lover of children’s books. Ogiwara is surely a writer to savor like hot chocolate on a cold day. Or is she?

Language alone cannot sustain a tale. The plot must also pull one. This is where I started to have doubts about this book. So many of the events confused me. I felt as if Ogiwara was explaining concepts alien to me, but which were so integral to the story that I could not fully appreciate the book’s depth. Yet the exotic worlds she introduces made me even further aware that I was not reading any ordinary writer.

The closest experience in reading Ogiwara that parallels is my first exposure to ethnic foods. For Chinese food to initially feel palpatable to me, I needed it coated in sweet sauce. For Sushi to feel comfortable to me, I needed it laden with tempura. The foods were so unusual I could not fathom liking them unless they were dunked in familiarity. Ogiwara sets her book in ancient Japan and incorporates its mythology. The landscape and its people fascinate me, the way treasures do in a museum. Yet those treasures are often enclosed behind glass, forbidden to touch, and so remain items about which to simply marvel. At times I felt caught up in Ogiwara’s tale of war and passion, but often I also simply felt overawed in a world unknown to me in my North American culture. While I can now savor ethnic foods without additions, I suspect I may need to better understand Japanese culture to develop a similar appreciation for Dragon Sword and Wind Child.

The book starts with Saya waking to a reoccuring dream. In that dream she met five people and soon enough she encounters those people in real life. They are the people of the dark or of the earth. They claim she is one of them. Later that very same day, while trying to make sense of their claim–because she was raised to worship the light, she meets the revered son of the God of Light: Prince Tsukishiro. He calls Saya the Water Maiden and invites her to join him in his palace to later wed.

So far, the book resembles a traditional good (light) against evil (darkness) fantasy story with some romance mixed in. It quickly departs from this norm. Saya moves into the castle of light, is followed by one of the five earth people, encounters an argument between the prince and his sister who claims that Saya is indeed of the dark, and…. These struggles are not part of any American folklore of which I am aware. The story becomes even more muddled for me, when the people of the earth talk about rebirth while the people of the heavens talk about being immortal. I sense Ogiwara is talking here about reincarnation, but am uncertain what other mythologies are covered, all of which makes me uncomfortable.

Often stories which appeal because of the wonder of their exotic worlds fail to capture our imagination upon rereading, because we begin to assimilate these other worlds into our mindset. Japanese culture aside, I will need to give Ogiwawa’s book another read to make a decision. Through her elborate tale of fantasy, she explores faith, love, immortality, death, perfection, compassion, and an endless list of other ideas. As such, the book is far more complex than the average children’s book and deserves esteem. How much I still need to determine.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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