Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind by Misa Sugiura. Labyrinth Road, 2023. 9780593564066
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
What did you like about the book? Being at the bottom of the 7th-grade totem pole is the worst, as Momo Arashima can tell you. She doesn’t have any friends, classmates actively avoid her, and the bullies of 7th grade constantly make fun of her. Her mother is no help; ever since Momo’s father died, her mom has become so listless that Momo has to take care of her, instead of the other way around. Then, one day at the mall, an old, disgusting hag called a shikone attacks Momo. She only survives with the aid of the bossy fox named Niko, and her ex-friend Danny, much to Momo’s annoyance. The three narrowly escape by running to her mother, who blasts the shikone away with a divine burst of power. Turns out that Momo’s mother is a Shinto goddess from the Island of Mysteries, and she is slowly dying because oni, evil spirits of the underworld, have invaded her island. The barrier preventing the oni from leaving – which is linked to her life force – is weakening. As her daughter, it is up to Momo to seal the underworld portal and drive back the oni. But to do so, she must travel across mythical lands, survive attacks by ancient Japanese creatures, and steal a mighty sacred sword to fight back. But, even with the help of Niko and Danny, will Momo be able to save her mother in a world that doesn’t want her? Or will she succumb to darker forces?
Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind is a fun mythology-adventure starring Japanese legends, frightening creatures, and a journey of courage and friendship. Momo is an interesting character to follow as she is thrust into this impossible challenge against her will. She has so many conflicting and turbulent emotions to deal with, from resentment toward her mother, distrust of Danny, frustration at her heritage, and, most of all, anger. Niko and Danny are good support characters because they bring out both the best and the worst in Momo, helping her character grow. Seeing Japanese mythology come to life in creative world-building is both fascinating and exciting, and readers will root for Momo’s success throughout the entire journey. All main characters are Japanese.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The pace is incredibly fast, speeding through action scenes and glossing over events and characters’ actions that should take a significant amount of time to complete. Conversely, Momo’s internal monologues could be long and tended to dwell on the same conflicts repeatedly. Also, the unsteady relationship between Momo and Danny is, well, unsteady, as Momo can’t decide whether Danny is really her friend or not. To some readers, her continuous switching between friends/not-friends with Danny may be frustrating.
To whom would you recommend this book? Kids who love mythology-based adventure stories and Japanese mythology (this will especially work with kids/tweens who are starting to get into manga/anime). The Percy Jackson series and any story in the Rick Riordian Presents series, Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao (Chinese mythology), Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (Mexican mythology), Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije (Lebanese/Arabian mythology) are all great read-alikes.
Who should buy this book? Elementary & middle schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? J Fiction or J Fantasy
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Laila Carter, Cheltenham Township Library Systems, Elkins Park, PA
Date of review: March 26, 2023
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