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The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow (The Twelve Kingdoms, #1)
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The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow (The Twelve Kingdoms #1)

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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,677 ratings  ·  124 reviews
For high-schooler Yoko Nakajima, life has been fairly ordinary--that is until Keiki, a young man with golden hair, tells Yoko they must return to their kingdom. Once confronted by this mysterious being and whisked away to an unearthly realm, Yoko is left with only a magical sword; a gem; and a million questions about her destiny, the world she's trapped in, and the world s ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by TokyoPop (first published June 1992)
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Bridge of Birds by Barry HughartThe Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi OnoThe Tales of the Otori Trilogy by Lian HearnEon by Alison GoodmanThe Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Chinese and Japanese Fantasy
2nd out of 151 books — 257 voters
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru TanigawaSpice and Wolf, Book 1 by Isuna HasekuraThe Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi Onoソードアート・オンライン1 by Reki KawaharaKino no Tabi by Keiichi Sigsawa
Ranobes - Japanese Light Novels
3rd out of 83 books — 94 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rebecca
Yoko Nakajima is a Japanese high schooler. Her main defining trait seems to be that she wants to make everyone happy, which leaves her with all the spine of a wet noodle. After being dropped into a fantasy country with the clothes on her back, a sword, and a spirit that lets her use it, this personality trait is not going to help her out.

One reason I really liked Sea of Shadow was that Yoko showed a great deal of character evolution through the book. Her journey teaches her to both become self-r
...more
Jessica Severs
There’s a lot of fantasy fiction out there, mostly consisting of orcs and elves and manly heroes. Problem is, who wants to read “World of Warcraft” when you can play it instead? And some authors seem stuck on emulating J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology.
Fuyumi Ono, however, creates an unchartered world for our imaginations to explore. She introduces us to Yoko, a studious high-school girl who obeys her parents and her peers. Only problem is, she’s having a recurring nightmare that intensifies with each
...more
Minh Ha
The book is fascinating , despite a somewhat too ordinary beginning.
However I'm a bit disappointed at the English Translation by Alexander O. Smith. It seems that he constantly removes Yoko's thinking voice , marked by the italic font, as he wants.

let's take a few paragraphs from "Sea of shadow" and compare it with the French translation:

La pluie tombait comme de fins filaments qu'une main géante aurait semés du ciel. Yôko restait étendue, la joue posée dans la flaque, incapable due moindre mouv
...more
Maya
Sometimes a publisher wanting to cash in on a popular genre is actually a good thing. The author of the Twelve Kingdoms series, Fuyumi Ono, is usually at home in the genres of horror and mystery, which maybe explains the detailed gorey descriptions during the fighting scenes. Her editor suggested to her to visit the fantasy genre, because it was popular at that moment, and Ono ended up creating one of the major works of modern Asian Fantasy.

At the beginning, main character Yoko is very annoying.
...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com

Yoko Nakajima is the perfect daughter. She's a good student, she always does what she's told, she never complains, she never calls attention to herself -- perfect. Except for her red hair that stands out everywhere in Japan, but no one can explain that one. Aside from that, she's perfect. So, when she starts falling asleep in class, it's surprising to everyone. If it weren't for those terrifying dreams, maybe she could get some sleep at night. And
...more
Toni
This is quite a surprising, whirlwind read. After having viewed the first half of the anime, I did not think I was going to like the main character, Nakajima Yoko any more in the novel. However, I was very impressed at the level of detail and rich history that Ono Fuyumi has woven into this story of the Twelve Kingdoms which spans over seven volumes (only the first two have been translated into English thus far).

Ordinary schoolgirl Nakajima Yoko gets drawn into a world of demons, danger, mystery
...more
Nate
Nov 11, 2008 Nate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anime or manga fans
I recently watched the animated television series based on these books, and really enjoyed it. I soon found out that the books (a seven book series originally written in Japanese 1991-2001) were being released in English. So I decided to picked up the first in the series. I was hoping for more content and story than presented in the TV series, but the TV series followed this first book closely. However, the TV series does leave a few loss ends, and the books are suppose to resolve them; however, ...more
Jamie
A great book based on the anime series Twelve Kingdoms (or the series was based on the book, I am not sure which to be honest).

This story focuses on a young girl named Yoko. A standard Japanese girl who works hard to fit in with others. One day a man appears before her, along with Fantastical beasts. She is whisked away to a different world by this man called Keiki. Before she is whisked away she is told it is for her ow safety and those around her and that she can always be returned home later
...more
Salimbol
I watched the anime adaptation of this years ago, and as I found that so impressive, this has been on my to-read list for ages now. A teenage girl being transported to another world is a real staple of Japanese fantasy, and sometimes it can be genuinely magical and at other times it's workmanlike at best. This story falls squarely into the former category - primarily because of the focus on the main character Yoko's inner journey. She starts out quiet, demure and eager to please, and then she pa ...more
Eugene Woodbury
With the Twelve Kingdoms series, Fuyumi Ono has created a high fantasy universe on a par with the more familiar medieval European milieu. Her "Middle Earth" springs out of ancient China, and boasts a highly complex cultural and political system, interwoven with the "rational" use of magic.

At the same time, the trilogy of novels covering Youko's adventure is a classic exploration of the hero's journey (or "monomyth"). The moral evolution of her character, symbolized by her encounters with the har
...more
branewurms
This book was a BLAST, omg.

On the downside: the prose was a bit flat and clunky (once again, no idea if this was a matter of translation or not), but it wasn't too bad. The decision to just... skip the whole battle scene at the very end was completely inexplicable - really, I cannot understand why the battle wasn't shown. That was just a bizarre decision that made the ending a bit anti-climatic. Info-dumps were present, but remained engaging enough, and honestly I don't know how they could have
...more
Aaron
A beautiful tome. THE TWELVE KINGDOMS is high fantasy that isn't too proud to reveal how weak, foolish, or arrogant its characters are (or become) in the face of overwhelming responsibility.

I have read and reread this book a handful of times and am always amazed at Ono's use of poetic language to articulate such vastness, violence, and indecision of the heart. Ono's characters are an infrequent breed of reluctant heroes who know their fate and and never aspire to it, feeling themselves unworthy.
...more
Aelvana
Yoko is a good girl, the kind that never causes any trouble and tries to keep people from noticing her. So it's as much a surprise to her as everyone else when a strange man shows up one day at her school, claiming she's his master and that she's in danger. Thrown into a new world, separated from anyone who might protect her, under constant attack by demons, Yoko struggles to survive and to find a way home.

The hunger, the cold, the demon attacks---all of those are almost a backdrop to the real b
...more
Julie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrea Peterson
This story is spared from Fushigi Yuugi-esque cheesiness by the fact that Yoko is dumped in this strange world completely alone and in the dark about the larger political/worldspanning plot, having to fend for herself and learn the language. Yoko's character development was pretty amazing -- I was shocked at how quickly and naturally she went from crybaby to badass. I liked the illustrations too -- much nicer than the stuff you usually see in Japanese light novels.
PandaRanda
I've watched the anime before, and although it's my all time favorite anime series, I can say without a doubt that the book is better! Being thoroughly in Yoko's head (as it is in the book) removes the need to have pointless characters to create the conflict needed to show viewers/readers Yoko's character growth (as it is in the anime). I felt so much more for Yoko being able to directly experience first hand her progress from a helpless, pathetic coward governed by fear, to a hardened survivor, ...more
Courtney
The Twelve Kingdom series are the books that the anime is based on. So, if you loved the anime, which I did, then you will love the books! The books are a little more in depth than the anime, which is a plus. I was happy to see that the artwork included in the books, is the art style used in the anime, so all the characters look familiar.
Sarah
Whiny school girl gets knocked around until she ain't whiny no more. Also, fantastic world-building, speedy pace, and interesting characters.
Kat
12K has been consistently awesome re: politics, gender roles, race, and class. Kudos to you, Ono Fuyumi!
Majo
Es la primera vez que leo una novela ligera (light novel), siempre me causaron curiosidad ya que muchos animes y mangas famosos se basan en ellas, pero el término “ligero” me daba mala espina. Tenía la sensación que sería una novela “licuada” demasiado sencilla y aburrida.
No es así, al menos en este caso. Tal vez si tenga pocas descripciones (de paisaje o lugares) pero abundan las reflexiones de la protagonista y las escenas de acción. Es una novela sumamente dinámica, plagada de aventuras y mu
...more
Max
Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow, a book of mystery and a world of new beginnings and prejudice, and a girl that must learn to understand it all.

Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow starts out in Japan in "our world" with a young girl named Yoko. She was taken to a strange world by a mysterious boy named Keiki to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms. Yoko is chased and attacked by strange creatures and is prejudiced against because she is a Kaikyaku (human from our world), though, as time passes she sees f
...more
Brian
Two things stopped me from unreservedly loving this book: Yoko is difficult to root for (read: annoying) in the first two-thirds of the story, and the unavoidable reality that this first entry largely serves as world building. World building is all well and good, but so much of it was (apparently) necessary that the action crawls for much of the book. And heck, flawed protagonists are fine too. But I wanted to reach into the book and shake Yoko when she reached her 'absolute lowest point' for th ...more
Tawnie
Grades: 9 to 11 Genre: Fantasy
Yoko has never really felt that she fits with her family. The strange reddish tint to her hair makes her a stick out in her Japanese school. One day when she is at school, a strange man comes up to her and states that she must come with him. Yoko is terrified of him, but soon after that some strange creatures start to attack her school. The man, Keiki, calls upon strange creatures of his own to defend them. He gives Yoko a sword and tells her to kill the creatures.
...more
Lir Feuerschein
Mar 19, 2010 Lir Feuerschein rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fantasy fans
Recommended to Lir by: kitschprinzessin
In Short: Aside from its really boring/typical beginning, I actually quite enjoyed reading the book. Give the book about 50 pages and it will intrigue you! :D

In Detail:
As I said before, it was a good read. This is not necessarily because of the story alone but also due to the character development the protagonist undergoes in the course of the events and storyline.

THE MAIN CHARACTER is likable, but also has her flaws and weaknesses.
Her strengths are not too supernatural but human character trait
...more
Verbera Rules
Apr 09, 2009 Verbera Rules rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who loved the anime, fantasy fans
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nerea
De toda la series el mejor. Me encanta Yoko, el cambio que hace es espectacular y es muchísimo mejor q el anime. Es el típico de chica-escogida-se-va-a-otro-mundo, el caso es q de guardaespaldas guapos nada, en realidad, si queréis romance aquí no lo encontraréis. Yoko es la típica alumna q no destaca, es buena chica y saca buenas notas pero es un poco... "mojigata" no es la palabra, resulta difícil insultar a un personaje después de haber leído sus pensamientos más íntimos, pero es alguien q no ...more
Krystle
The protagonist, Yoko, was well done. It was nice to see a protagonist who neither wallows in her misery the whole time, nor acts like the ultimate badass right from the get-go. She struggles with what is dealt her way, but ultimately rises up against her troubles.
Yoko felt like a believable human teenager, is what I'm getting at here. And she deals with her situation exceedingly well, all things considered.

As for the other characters, I was quite glad to see that neither Asano nor Yuka were pre
...more
Emma Thompson
I find this book to be rather predictable, in all honesty. It's a rather standard girl is transported into magical world story. The most interesting part by far is Yoko in the forest. She's stranded in the magical world without any means to care for herself, friends or idea of where she is. She does have the means to defend herself. She soon lears that people can't be trusted to help her, that they will cheat and lie to herShe fights to make peace with the world and the idea that though people w ...more
Laura
I really wanted to love this book, it had a lot of great things going for it: an excellent translation, a compelling story (even despite the Japanese tropes in abundance). But it was way too dark for me. I'm sensitive to dark, heavy lit these days and I couldn't continue. I put it aside for a while to see if I'd come back to it, but I haven't, so I'm marking it as abandoned for now. Like the other dark fantasy I've abandoned, I may come back to it when I'm in a different place in my life.
Diana Suddreth
I'm afraid I really couldn't get into the Twelve Kingdoms, maybe because I'm not a fan of what felt like young adult literature (at least the heroine is young) or maybe there's something about wandering through forests starving and fighting demons that I just don't find all that compelling. A little bit Wizard of Oz, a little bit Lord of the Rings, a whole lot of a character I never found myself caring about and adventure I just wanted to end.
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Kanji Name: 小野 不由美.

Fuyumi Ono (小野 不由美, Ono Fuyumi) is a Japanese novelist who is best known for writing the Twelve Kingdoms (十二国記, Juuni Kokuki) series, on which a popular anime is based. Her name after marriage is Fuyumi Uchida (内田不由美, Uchida Fuyumi), but she writes under her maiden name.

Ono was born in Nakatsu, Ōita, Kyūshū in 1960. She graduated from Ōtani University in Kyōto with a degree in B
...more
More about Fuyumi Ono...

Other Books in the Series

The Twelve Kingdoms (7 books)
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind (The Twelve Kingdoms, #2)
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas (The Twelve Kingdoms, #3)
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn (The Twelve Kingdoms, #4)
  • Les ailes du destin (Les 12 Royaumes, #5)
  • 黄昏の岸 暁の天 [Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora]
  • Le royaume de l'idéal (Les 12 Royaumes, #7)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind (The Twelve Kingdoms, #2) The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas (The Twelve Kingdoms, #3) The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn (The Twelve Kingdoms, #4) La Mer de L'ombre, Tome 2 (Les 12 Royaumes, #2) La Mer de L'ombre, Tome 1 (Les 12 Royaumes, #1)

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“Now she realized that she was not peering at a so-dark-blue-it-looked-black ocean, but rather she was looking straight through miles of incredibly clear water at something enormous and black in its nethermost depths. Maybe it was the bottom--so deep that not even light could touch it.

And yet, down in those impossible depths, she thought she could see tiny lights sparkling. She stared uncertainly at the tiny glimmerings. They seemed almost like scattered grains of sand lit from within; in some places they clustered like colonies, faint and twinkling.

Like stars...”
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“She couldn't live in denial of her own humanity.” 0 likes
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