Kokoro is a fast paced action novel with characters who try to save two worlds while confronting their deepest secrets and their struggle to accept themselves. While the first book, Kojiki, felt disjointed at times, Kokoro gives us characters we root for in a plot that demands their inner demons.
Kokoro is the sequel to Kojiki (see my review of Kojiki), but it is not exactly necessary to read the first book. Granted there are characters which overlap and stay the same, but the main protagonists do not know the events of the first book either (save Keiko who was in the first). In the following review, I compare quite a bit to the first book, not in terms of plot, but in terms of things I liked and didn’t like which were improved upon in the second book.
Time has passed since Kojiki and the fight for Earth and the spirits won’t make the same mistakes as last time. Baiyren flees the planet Higo to avoid conflict and a power struggle and finds refuge on Earth. But his self-imposed exile comes at a cost, and the sentient suit he used to travel to Earth is needed by his homeland. The life he has so carefully constructed and enjoyed on Earth is coming to an end and those he love will be thrown into the crossfire whether or not he embraces his identity and the conflict on Higo.
My favorite part of this book were its characters. Last book I felt that there were too many characters that demanded attention. However, in Kokoro we revolve around a much smaller, more concentrated group of heroes: Regan (the chief commander of the Higo force), Baiyren (Prince of Higo), and Juno (Baiyren’s lover). While there are mentions of others and Keiko’s perspective, these three are the primary characters and this tight knit group of protagonists gave the novel more focus. We are able to experience their memories and see their own thoughts, therefore empathizing with them much more than I was able to with Kojiki.
Even though the synopsis only speaks about Baiyren, my favorite characters were the women of this book: Regan and Juno (especially Regan). Despite enjoying Juno more in the beginning, Regan’s character slowly evolved into a much deeper storyline. Speaking of which, the storyline was fantastic. Not only did it involve the larger arc of Baiyren and the conflicts on Higo, which spill over to Earth, but it devoted time to Baiyren’s emotional dilemma and Regan’s backstory. These aspects made the plot richer and combined with the added character relatability, won me over entirely. As a whole, the characters were multi-faceted this time around and the ‘villain’ was incredibly complex and interesting (as the ‘villain’ was last time around).
There were just a few things I wanted to mention which frustrated me. My pet peeve is a lack of detail about the world setting and I felt like the descriptions of Higo were lacking in this regard. However, this is, make no mistakes about it, an action story. It is chock full of battles, armored suits, and conflicts. The fantasy aspect in this sequel is less than before, not focusing on the gods, but more on the people (and by this I mean actual humans).
Ultimately, Kokoro delivers a fast-paced adventure, sweeping us off our feet and into the world of Higo. Delving into new worlds and characters, we see through their eyes and they make their way into our hearts astonishing us with their love, humbling us with their bravery, and making us weep with their pain. While on the surface we see a tale about heroism, action, and finding your calling, beneath we find a story of forgiveness, inner truth, and finding our family.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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If you liked this book, you might enjoy a different fantasy novel from China, Portal of A Thousand Worlds