All Momo wants for her twelfth birthday is an ordinary life—like everyone else’s. At home, she has to take care of her absentminded widowed mother. At school, kids ridicule her for mixing up reality with the magical stories her mother used to tell her.
But then Momo’s mother falls gravely ill, and a death hag straight out of those childhood stories attacks Momo at the mall, where she’s rescued by a talking fox . . . and “ordinary” goes out the window. It turns out that Momo’s mother is a banished Shinto goddess who used to protect a long-forgotten passageway to Yomi—a.k.a. the land of the dead. That passageway is now under attack, and countless evil spirits threaten to escape and wreak havoc across the earth.
Joined by Niko the fox and Danny—her former best friend turned popular jerk, whom she never planned to speak to again, much less save the world with—Momo must embrace her (definitely not “ordinary”) identity as half human, half goddess to unlock her divine powers, save her mother’s life, and force the demons back to Yomi.
One of the elements I appreciate the most in Misa Suguira’s book, “Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind” is the wonderful characters she has created. In the novel, I absolutely adored Momo Arashima, most particularly because she isn’t perfect. None of the protagonists are perfect. They exist in the gray areas, with all the wonderful imperfections and foibles that make them resonate and connect with readers, especially young readers. In the book, Momo and Danny used to be friends and as they journey together on this adventure, they find themselves bonding again but Momo remembers how alone and isolated she’s been and that makes friendship more difficult. All three of the main characters, Momo, Danny, and their fox companion Niko all have issues they struggle with and must overcome.
Readers will also fall in love with the adventure. Misa Seguira has presented a world that is rich and full of depth, with care taken with the mythos and the culture of Japan. I like that in the midst of the main adventure, we also get snippets of Japanese lore. The story is engaging, the dynamic between the characters is complex, and the ending leaves room for more, a whole series of books with the characters.
If you like books of a similar style, such as Rick Riordan’s young adult series, I think you’ll love “Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind.” It incorporates Japanese elements well and has Asian characters that will allow Asian readers someone they can connect with. The characters are complex and have depth with the book developing themes of bullying and peer pressure as well as learning to like yourself. Readers will love the ideas and the story.
Rating: 5 out of 5 yokai.