“Book Review: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 5: Noriko’s Journey”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Husbands and wives, dragons and long-lost siblings. Noriko’s Journey is yet another satisfying addition to The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.
[This is Independent Book Review’s second review in the Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy series. Check out more about book four here.]
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy by Claire Youmans is a historical fantasy series set in late 1800s Japan. After getting to know the dual-natured children and a little bit of dragon royalty in book four, I had the pleasure of picking up book five in the series, Noriko’s Journey. Like the previous novel, this one offers an immersive experience into Japanese culture and the folklore that helps drive it, but this time, it comes with a whole new set of problems.
In the previous book, Uncle Yuta (guardian of the Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy) helps rescue a group of female mill workers from abuse in a building beside his hotel. With his special combat skills and a new friend who works at the hotel (a woman named Noriko), they not only help the women escape but they discover a newfound passion for one another.
We open this novel on the third day after Yuta and Noriko’s marriage. While we miss out on the courtship between the two, it feels honest and true considering Yuta and Noriko don’t have much of one. They marry quickly after meeting, and so we discover all of what it means to be married to Yuta in this book, including a nephew and niece that have more than a little mystery surrounding them.
“If I am consistent with what I know to be the best of human morality and society, it’s easier for me to face everything that isn’t.”
While Noriko explores her new roles as wife and guardian, she is reminded of her own family, the roots she seems to have lost since she was much younger. And since Yuta continues to be an understanding and kindhearted husband, Noriko requests a trip to find her family and uncover the truth behind where they’ve been and why they haven’t seen each other for so long.
Like book four, this novel does a wonderful job conveying an important theme of the time and culture. This time, we focus heavily on the roles of husband and wife during the Meiji era as Noriko becomes increasingly nervous about adapting to her new lifestyle. Will she be asked to cook? What if she’s not good at it? Will she be asked to sew? What will become of her old life?
But lucky for us, Yuta is no ordinary husband of the time. Thanks to his loving nature, he remains the same person Noriko married and never abuses the power the husband role expects of him. As a reader, I enjoyed learning about the ways in which husbands and wives lived as well as discovering just how special our main characters were in diverting from their norms.
“Maybe she should work harder at being more of herself and less of what she expected a wife should be.”
Once Noriko’s Journey gets going, it keeps our attention and tells stories of overcoming obstacles regularly. Whether we are following Noriko on her quest to find family or we are witnessing the Dragon King’s attempts to shapeshift into a human form, this novel makes sure each scene is filled with characters wanting something, and a new problem standing in their way. However, it does take a little while to get going, so just make sure you put on your patient reader-hats for this one.
But if you’re in the mood for an exploration into a new culture and its habits and roles, Noriko’s Journey will be a satisfying reading experience for you. With three different pregnancies all crowning at the same time, this book also acts as a great stepping stone for what is to come in book six. Because with three new characters, we’re sure to get an intriguing look into new problems, new themes, and new triumphs.
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