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Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

(守り人 #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,518 ratings  ·  389 reviews
You've never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that's as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river -- and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy -- the Princ
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Arthur A. Levine Books (first published July 1st 1996)
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Michael The manga has fan translations available, but if you're actually asking about the light novels, then it's only the first two so far. There are petitio…moreThe manga has fan translations available, but if you're actually asking about the light novels, then it's only the first two so far. There are petitions out there seeking to remedy that though.(less)
Iúka As Stephanie Fachiol points out, only the first two books have been translated. But you may be able to change this situation by signing my petition (h…moreAs Stephanie Fachiol points out, only the first two books have been translated. But you may be able to change this situation by signing my petition (

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Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
> 4.5 stars

This book is slightly old now, and it was published in the time where diverse (and #ownvoices) fantasy often wasn’t given the time of the day, so it’s not that well-known either. But it’s brilliant, and needs more love! And as Asian fantasy and diverse fantasy overall is becoming so incredibly popular, with releases like Girls of Paper and Fire and Flame in the Mist, this novel is perfect for those looking for more Japanese fantasy.

Moribito presents truly memorable characters in Ba
May 26, 2012 rated it liked it
So I thought this was going to be a short one, because, well, the book is pretty short, and I didn't think I had much to say about it. Then I started writing, and NGL, totally fangirling, but I don't even care, because this series is fucking awesome, y'all. While Moribito isn't perfect, it was a genuinely pleasurable reading experience, and I would gladly commit gratuitous acts of imaginary violence to have more like it.

For those who skipped the summary, Moribito is the story of Balsa, a thirty-
Originally reviewed on Kirkus' Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog

“Your Highness,” she said. “I’ve already explained that no matter how much you might give me, it’s no good to me if I’m dead. Forgive my rudeness, but I must speak plainly. You have dealt me an unfair and cowardly blow.”
The queen went pale and began to tremble violently. “What do you mean?”
“I saved the prince’s life, yet you reward me by taking my life. What would you call that but unfair and cowardly?”

On the prosperous, island kingdom
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Betsy by: Cheryl Klein
No one can look you in the eye and tell you that kids today don't read Japanese literature. A simple stroll by the manga section of any well-stocked bookstore will put your mind to rest on that particular matter. But what the kids aren't reading these days is Japanese prose. How many novels for kids, translated from Japanese, can you come up with off the top of your head? Living as we do at a time when children's literature is profitable and all encompassing, you would think that publishers woul ...more
Moribito is a rare kind of story that....

(1) has everything (action, drama, fantasy, politic, slice of life, romance); and
(2) makes all of them work.

Revolving around a female bodyguard and a prince she's entrusted with, the narrative of Moribito is as elegant as it gets. I always love it when an author can deliver a deep and substantial storyline in very accessible format, and Nahoko Uehashi sure is terrific at that. The book strikes a difficult balance by being a child-friendly reading thanks t
4 1/2 stars. It wasn't perfect, but man, it was really damn good. The prose is smooth, although a little flat, and the book relied a little too heavily on introspection as a method of relaying information, I think. But it was really gripping, and wow, the expertise of the author really shines through in the worldbuilding. I was also surprised at how well the themes of colonialism and such were handled - and how clearly deliberately thought out they were. This ain't your standard poor lost prince ...more
Shira Glassman
Loved this. Someone recommended it to me because there's a prominent warrior woman in my series, so they thought Balsa would appeal to me. She does, but I like the book for many reasons besides her. What I loved most was the way two factions who start out the book at odds with each other wind up learning that they're actually on the same side against a real enemy. I liked the ultimate message of how two sides had to combine two pieces of a legend in order to defeat the Plot Thing.

Balsa rescues,
LG (A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions)
The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's though
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Moribito (= Guardian) series is one of my favorite works, not only of Asian Fantasy, but of the fantasy genre in general. The world-building, the characters, the story, everything about it is not only, imho, original and creative, but also worked perfectly for me. I will try to express what fascinated me the first time I visited the worlds of Nayugu and Sagu, and what still impresses me after reading (and watching) the story multiple times.

First of all there's the world-building. The book is
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I came to this book after having watched the anime and falling love with the characters and story. I was hoping that the book would be more expansive than the anime adaption, but in this case, it seems to be the other way round. Still, it was an enjoyable read and despite it quite evidently being aimed at younger readers, I'm glad to have it in my collection! ...more
Reminded me of Ursula LeGuin, but not as powerful. LeGuin's philosophy runs much deeper. Uehashi is a good storyteller with a painfully ordinary plot, and only a little bit of depth which I suspect will be deepened in the next books of the series. ...more
This would have been better if it was written as an adult fiction with all the grit and gore. As it is, Moribito is tame. People who realistically could have died given the situations (fighting a monster, hiding a fugitive, etc) are left with at most some injuries and that leaves me feeling rather unsatisfied.

Also, the writing is flat. If it is not short, I might have called it boring. But, being a translator myself, I do not want be that one guy who blames the translator when a translated ficti
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an international book that has been translated from Japanese to English, but doesn't miss a beat with the translation. After Balsa saves the young prince from drowning in a river, his mother the Second Queen, hires Balsa to protect Chagum, the 11-year-old prince. She fears his life is in danger because of a spirit that lives inside him. Balsa agrees to protect the child from his father the Mikado, and the dangerous spirit hunter Rarunga. As the pair narrowly escape danger at every turn w ...more

Moribito Tells the story of Balsa, a female bodyguard expert in wielding spear. It has been adapted into manga, anime, and live action drama. Maybe having watched the anime adaptation made me biased towards this book, but this book offer additional depth and nuance.

In this book Balsa took a mission to protect Chagum, the Second Prince of New Yogo. Allegedly possessed by a water demon, attempts had been made towards Chagum’s life, followed by freak incidents involving water. Yet, as we learn
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who enjoy Japanese myths, or are looking for more complex YA
Some things I liked about this book:

- Balsa, the female heroine of this novel, is strong and battle-hardened yet still well-written - sadly unlike the vast majority of such characters

- The main characters all could easily fall under the 'chosen one' trope, but didn't read like it. They just feel so overtly 'special', which made the story feel much more real.

- There's a minor romance plotline, but it isn't forced in and just a nice little touch. In fact, it's not even a plotline. The love interes
Katharine Ott
"Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit" - written by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano and first published in Japan in 1996, this edition by Scholastic in 2008. "There are none in the trade who do not know the name of Balsa, Spear-wielder." This action-packed YA novel is the first in a series which also became an animated television series. Balsa is an exceptionally talented fighter, both with her spear and the martial arts, and this outing has her spiriting the Second Crown Prince away from ...more
I really loved this book. Both Balsa and Chagum are great characters. I especially like that none of the characters tried to hide things from Chagum but rather included him in everything, even when it would hurt him emotionally.

As far as the Japanese there are a lot of old-times/classical-ish Japanese being spoken by the royal characters but most of the chapters do not include them so it's not so bad. There's a lot of hiragana used in place of Kanji and every time a term is used again in a diffe
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Magic, spiritual ties to another world, a reverence for nature, warriors, emperors with star readers and shadow assassins, a spirit egg, sacred birds, and a crown prince chosen to protect this menagerie of life occupy the pages of Moribito.

Balsa, a warrior, saves the life of the Chagum, the twelve year old crown prince. The mother, believing that someone is attempting to assassinate her son, hands Chagum over to Balsa for protection. Into the lives of a warrior and magic weavers, Chagum comes t
May 14, 2019 added it
I read this years and years ago and can't remember anything about it but I think I enjoyed it- super helpful I know. The cover design was really well done though, it was published in hardback with a parchment-like dust jacket and thats the only thing I remember about it. ...more
Christina Demmert
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: educ-542
Moribito is a great fantasy novel that is great for female and male students. One of the aspects that I am excited about is the female hero. Balsa is a master of the spear, martial arts, and combat. This story breaks down barriers for young girls. This would be a great novel to read with a high school and middle school students. First. The book is a very intense and interesting story. Second, this novel would be great to pair with books that focus on gender role because this book has a female he ...more
Eva Mitnick
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Balsa, a woman warrior and bodyguard, is no shrinking violet, and she’s no spring chicken either. I knew I would like her when I read this description – “Her long, weather-beaten hair was tied at the nape of her neck, and her face, unadorned by makeup, was tanned and beginning to show fine wrinkles.” Brave, sensible, and superbly skilled in martial arts, Balsa is 30 years old – a refreshing age for the heroine of a children’s book, when they usually haven’t hit 18.

Oh, there’s a child in this boo
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
Moribito is a high fantasy tale with subtle hints of heroic romance. From the very first pages, the reader literally dives in with Balsa, a 30 year old spear wielding bodyguard for hire, who jumps off a cliff into dark waters below to save a young prince. Balsa is strong, courageous, observant, and a formidable warrior. But Balsa is also a commoner in a foreign land and a woman. Her reward for saving the young prince is a plea from his mother, the second queen, to protect his life from assassins ...more
Horses are coming
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Haruka Ayase

does this name sound familiar? maybe? I don’t think so!

Haruka Ayase is a popular Japanese actress
that I loved watching her playing the main character of my favorite book ( Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro ) which makes me search if she got any other tv show that I would like to watch and then I found that she got a tvshow going on of three seasons which is the adaptation of this book. Basically, Haruka Ayase is the main reason why I read this book.

anyway so of all my 500 friends
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I think this one hovers just about 4.5 stars... not exactly perfect, but so so so good. So much about it I can praise:

It's a book that I can feel entirely enthusiastic about recommending to children who look for fast-paced and action packed stories with magic.

It's a book that features unusual characters: the protagonist is a 30-year-old warrior woman who wields a spear with great skills and who has a rich back story and an intriguing future story to look forward to.

It does not alter its sensibil
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first of 12 books in a series by Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi. In this first episode, a guard-for-hire named Balsa ends up being hired as Prince Chagum's body guard after she saves him from a river. Chagum is no ordinary prince though. His father wants him dead because he believes Chagnum is possessed by a water demon that will cause a catastrophic drought. Turns out that Chagum is host to a water spirit's egg and a catastrophic drought will occur if Chagum dies. But of course, no ...more
My friend recommended this, since i got this book with great price so i think why not.
Its very refreshing to read new genre after overloaded with western supernatural, fantasy or scifi novel, first i love how the author setting the main character a tough lady who can fighting well but still look soft and care toward everyone, but she is not perfect either and that made her more human and relateable to reader.

First read the prolog, even this book setting is a fantasy world you will know that this
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first heard about Moribito from L’Arc~en~Ciel, their song entitled Shine was used as the opening song for the anime version of this book. When I saw the opening, I wasn’t impressed with it and decided not to look for the anime. Last year, a friend of mine (used to be my co work) told me that Seirei no Moribito (the title of the anime as well as the book) was awesome. I became more intrigued after reading the anime review by Kelly of The Gallery of Words.

On July 2011, I was visiting a book sale
Traci Loudin
Oct 27, 2012 added it
Recommends it for: fans of Japanese culture, fans of secondary-world fantasy
This was a great story about a warrior/bodyguard who is given an impossible mission to save the prince from an otherworldly predator. The prince turns out to be the Moribito, or guardian of an egg that spawns once a century. What I liked about this story was that it wasn't a "save the world" story. The characters were aware that although their mission was bigger than any one of them, it was only important to their area of the island. I haven't read many books where the characters are that... non ...more
L11_Nick Mamula
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
The themes in this book and the way in which they are presented are both powerful and wise. To start, the way in which Uehashi attacks gender roles in society is superb. Instead of relying on the males to represent the strength and power, Uehashi taps into the true power of the female. Throughout the story, it is the women who are subtly the wisest and the most brave. In addition to the gender issue, Uehashi makes sure to tap into ideas of moderation, and the importance of not being "more or les ...more
Soon after the spear-wielding bodyguard Balsa rescues Prince Chagum from drowning in a raging river, she is sent on a mission to protect the Prince from his father's hunters. Chagum's father, ruler of New Yogo, believes his son is inhabited by the embryo of a creature which, if it hatches, will causes catastrophic flooding in his empire. On the contrary, however, the egg that resides in Chagum is that of a water spirit that will save the kingdom if Chagum lives to see it born--if Balsa can prote ...more
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Nahoko Uehashi is the author of ten books in the Moribito series, which have sold more than a million copies and won many major literary awards in her native Japan. An associate professor at a Japanese university, she has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and studies indigenous peoples in Australia. She lives near Tokyo, Japan.

Other books in the series

守り人 (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness (Moribito, #2)
  • 夢の守り人
  • 虚空の旅人
  • 神の守り人 来訪編
  • 神の守り人 帰還編
  • 蒼路の旅人
  • 天と地の守り人 第一部 ロタ王国編
  • 天と地の守り人 第二部 カンバル王国編
  • 天と地の守り人 第三部 新ヨゴ皇国編
  • 流れ行く者

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