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

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  2,148 Ratings  ·  157 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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Minh Ha
Mar 09, 2011 Minh Ha rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, modern-earth
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
Jessica Severs
May 19, 2008 Jessica Severs rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2012 Maya rated it really liked it
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.
May 31, 2015 Ro rated it really liked it
This book was on my shelf for about a year, taunting me with it's width and bright blue dust jacket. I had this particular attachment to it, that I can't really explain or understand. It had the familiarity of walking into the room and seeing my cat curled up on the couch. Whenever I picked it up and looked at it's cover, I'd wonder why I noticed it so much and why, because of this, I still hadn't read it yet.

Well! I can wonder that no longer!

I'll have to admit that because of this weird wonderm
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for

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
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
Oct 20, 2008 Toni rated it it was amazing
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
Eugene Woodbury
Aug 04, 2011 Eugene Woodbury rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 11, 2008 Nate rated it really liked it
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
Andrea Peterson
Oct 08, 2011 Andrea Peterson rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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.
Sep 03, 2009 Courtney rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 19, 2012 Kat rated it it was amazing
12K has been consistently awesome re: politics, gender roles, race, and class. Kudos to you, Ono Fuyumi!
Matthew Hedgecock
Sep 18, 2016 Matthew Hedgecock rated it really liked it
An enjoyable fantasy read in the vein of THE WIZARD OF OZ but with way more violent demon fights. Book starts out at a rollicking pace but trudges a bit toward the end as action decreases, mysteries are resolved and world-building ramps up. Overall really good stuff, though. Yoko is a terrific hero.
Dec 11, 2015 Aaron rated it it was amazing
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 never aspire to it, feeling themselves unworthy. It
Oct 27, 2012 Salimbol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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
Nov 11, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
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
May 04, 2014 PandaRanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2016 Challopea rated it it was amazing
It is my coming of age book, a book which has reached and changed a whole generation of teenage girls in East Asia.

I still remembered when the books came out, it was the early stage of WWW. Young girls and women created our own online forums and pledged to live by the values conveyed by the books: 1. We shall always love ourselves. 2. We shall always respect ourselves. 3. We shall always believe in ourselves. 4. We shall always keep on improving ourselves. 5. We shall always stand up for oursel
Aug 26, 2015 Daisy rated it it was amazing
a worthwhile read with a good anime adaption; i really wish they'd translate the rest of the books. genuinely considering learning japanese so i can read the rest of the series.
Whiny school girl gets knocked around until she ain't whiny no more. Also, fantastic world-building, speedy pace, and interesting characters.
Jan 14, 2017 Selenita rated it really liked it
Un libro genial y muy recomendable para quien le guste la fantasía.

Se desarrolla en un mundo fantástico de corte más o menos medieval se hace muy original porque está basado en la mitología oriental, por lo que resulta nuevo e interesante; algo que se potencia porque está bastante bien construido. Tiene sus fallos y reglas demasiado convenientes (como la geografía de los reinos o la forma en que se eligen les gobernantes) que simplemente tienes que aceptar, pero a nivel general está currado y r
3.5/4.0 stars

***Spoilers are briefly mentioned near the end of this review.***

I was doing some market research for the book I'm writing and wanted to read books with Asian fantasy settings. This one came up on a list in Goodreads and the synopsis intrigued me. I was pleased to discover that it's prose (as opposed to manga which I enjoy as well) and was eager to read this b/c I haven't read very many Asian fantasy stories.

There are several things I enjoyed about this story: the worldbuilding, the
Dakota Thompson
Dec 12, 2016 Dakota Thompson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was such a unique and incredible find. I had my reservations when I first started, with the very blunt writing style that lacked exquisite details and blah-blah-blah. But soon enough, none of that mattered. This was easily one of the best plot-based novels I've ever read. It was fast-paced, bloody, energetic, depressing, funny, and the world created was top-notch! The politics, the religion, the people and their was all so hugely different from our world, but created so it wa ...more
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
Catherine Lewis
Oct 12, 2016 Catherine Lewis rated it it was amazing
The main character is annoying at first and can be difficult for people to get past. However, her development and growth is not only believable, but totally amazing. Fantasy ideas I've never read before. HUGE fan. Also, love the anime!
Pomme de Terre
3.5 stars. I'm in the midst of reading three other books, and what do I do? Sit down and read a bit of Sea of Shadow, the first Twelve Kingdoms book, then promptly zoom through the rest and throw a small hissy fit that I have no access to the second one. Yes, this book is that good.

Essentially, Average Everyday Schoolgirl Yoko Nakajima is grabbed by a Mysterious, Blong-Haired Man proclaiming her to be the Chosen One and whisks her off to a fantasy kingdom. Standard young adult portal fantasy stu
Oct 28, 2014 Aelvana rated it it was amazing
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
Lir Feuerschein
Mar 19, 2010 Lir Feuerschein rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2016 Krystle rated it really liked it
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's The Name o...: YA or Fantasy: young girl abducted by magical being, flown over water to new world/universe [s] 2 17 Sep 24, 2014 04:06PM  
Under- appreciate...: The twelve kingdoms 1 8 Jan 27, 2014 11:04AM  
oops!!! 2 52 Aug 11, 2008 12:05AM  
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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 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)

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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...”
“I'd rather be in danger with you than be safe without you.” 5 likes
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