First off, let me apologize for my absence on the blog. So far 2012 has been light on the reading front, I think I may have burned myself out a bit last year and so I'm trying not to over-read now. I know that's not an excuse to all you lovely readers, but merely an explanation. Anyway.. on to what you are actually here for.
The story is thus: Yuriko is a normal elementary school girl. Her family is average, etc etc. Then one day she is called out of class because an incident has occurred. It turns out that her brother went to school that day and killed and injured two classmates. Everyone was shocked because he was a model student. Yuriko quickly learns (from talking books no less!) that her brother has been possessed by The Hero. The Hero (and The King in Yellow) is the manifestation of every hero story ever told, while he is everything good, The King in Yellow is the other side of the coin and represents everything bad. In order to save her brother (and stop him from bringing chaos into the world), Yuriko must become the allcaste and journey to defeat the King in Yellow.
There were really fantastic elements to it. My favorite part (that I mentioned briefly) was Aju, a dictionary that befriends Yuriko and travels along side of her. There is the nameless land filled with nameless devout who keep the stories of the world in motion. And crazy monsters like giant floating eyeballs or tornado like hands that come down from the sky and tear up everything in their path.
I really don't know how to describe everything I enjoyed about this book. It created ideas behind books, stories, readers, and authors that I would never have dreamed of before. For a large part of the novel, the group travels into a "region" which turns out to be a fantasy novel. Yuriko travels with a character from the book in order to follow after The Hero's incarnation of that story. Because if she can stop his progress in one story, she can stop his progress in her world, because then his story stops being told and his chaos can't happen. Are you following? I promise it makes sense.
The only way I can properly describe this book is that the whole time I was reading it, I wanted to be reading it out loud to someone. It had this magical quality to it that I just wanted to share with someone. But instead of just shoving the book in their hand and telling them to read it, I wanted to experience it along side with them. Does that make sense?
My two problems with this book (which aren't really the books fault anyway) were that:
1. I kept comparing it to Brave Story. I caught myself doing this far too much. They are similar themed books - something awful happens, kid gets gathered up in a magical land to try and fix it, awesome adventures ensue. With that being said, they are entirely different books, and it was not fair of me to compare one to the other. But I found it fairly distracting and I found that The Book of Heroes did not stand up as well as Brave Story. That's why it wasn't a 5+ for me.
2. Sometimes Yuriko could fall flat as a heroine. I say this - and then let me qualify it. I would find myself disappointed in how she acted and then have to remind myself that she was acting exactly like a 10 year old would. When she was confronted by a giant floating eyeball... she started screaming. So here I am wondering why she wasn't busting out some crazy move to defeat it and then I have to stop myself and think "..wait a second... I would be screaming and crying too, and I'm not 10" So it wasn't the books fault- if anything Miyabe did a good job of capturing how freaked out a little kid would be by an experience like this.
I highly recommend this book. And Brave Story. And... if nothing else the cover is gorgeous!