Taro

Legendary Boy Hero of Japan

Fiction - Fantasy - General
272 Pages
Reviewed on 02/11/2021
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Author Biography

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Blue Spruell lived and worked in Japan for several years before returning to Atlanta. A trial lawyer and certified mediator, he runs his own firm, The Outlaw Firm, specializing in family law and civil litigation. An internationally recognized black belt instructor, he also owns Peachtree Aikikai, a dōjo for Japanese martial arts.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan by Blue Spruell is a captivating coming-of-age fantasy novel that refashions Japanese folktales from the perspective of legendary Samurai boy, Taro. The story is set in 1596, and Japanese warlords are fighting for the Imperial throne. Taro's father was a Samurai, and the boy doesn't want to be one, but that changes after he is adopted by a witch. Taro hones his supernatural talents and gets to know the animals of Mount Fuji. He saves the life of a warlord and finds his calling, plunging into all-out warfare to control Japan. Some violence and bloodshed occurs, but is pertinent to the storyline, so trigger warnings may apply.

If you like fantasy stories based on myths and legends, as well as Samurai stories with swords, ancient creatures, and martial arts, this book is for you. I like that there is some mystique surrounding the story. Even the chapters allude to mystery and something to dig for and discover. You don't have to be familiar with Japanese legends in order to enjoy this novel, but it could add to your reading enjoyment. The glossary is greatly appreciated, as are the illustrations. The three folktales that inspired this novel are "Kintaro" (Golden Boy), "Urashima Taro" (Island Boy), and "Momotaro" (Peach Boy). These tales aren't connected in any way, and the author uses clever imagination to bring real people, real places, and fictitious folktales to life.

The author offers an introduction that fills in some of the backgrounds you may want to know before diving into this unique and intriguing story. Spruell has an awesome talent for worldbuilding, character building, and a wonderful sense of time and place. His descriptions are intricate and detailed, and young readers will find themselves happily living in his world for a while. Taro is an unforgettable character, and the author can be applauded for bringing these Japanese folktales to a wider audience. Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan by Blue Spruell is a coming-of-age fantasy novel you don't want to miss.

K.C. Finn

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan is a work of fiction in the fantasy, folklore and cultural themes sub-genres, and was penned by author Blue Spruell. The work is intended for the general reading audience, and contains some mild fantasy violence which is pertinent to the plot. Our protagonist is the titular character Taro, a young boy living in feudal Japan at the turn of the sixteenth century, who decides from a young age that he does not want to fall in line and become a samurai like his father. So Taro is taken in by a witch and experiences the magical wonders of the forests of Mount Fuji; an incredible story is about to begin.

Author Blue Spruell has crafted a highly imaginative and engrossing work of fiction which offers its readers an accessible retelling of one of Japan’s most beloved folklore stories. The author creates a cinematic masterpiece in the description and mood of the work, with keen attention to detail in the atmospheric language and the small cultural points that make this a truly Japanese tale. By setting an ethereal mood with these lexical and descriptive choices, Spruell is able to cut this scenery with intense action as the stakes rise more and more in the developing plot. The central character of Taro is also sensitively drawn, with close narration for readers of all ages to really relate to his discoveries, triumphs and trials. Overall, I would highly recommend Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan to fans of dynamic and magical fiction, vivid settings with rich culture and for folklore enthusiasts everywhere.

Pikasho Deka

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan is an epic fantasy novel inspired by Japanese folklore. Written by author Blue Spruell with illustrations provided by Miya Outlaw, the book follows the story of Taro Takeda, the son of the powerful Lord Takeda of Nihon. Taro becomes an orphan at the tender age of seven when, during a trip to Fuji Hachiman, his family is ambushed and murdered by the evil Lord Monkey. After being rescued and raised by the witch Yama Uba, Taro grows up to be a powerful young man amongst the creatures of the woods. Circumstances place Taro and his best friend Tanuki in the Tokugawa household, where he learns to become a samurai alongside Lord Tokugawa's daughter Kamehime. However, Lord Monkey's growing influence on the emperor forces him to confront his past.

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan is a coming of age story soaked deep in Japanese folklore and mythology. It is a riveting tale of betrayal, honor, and revenge that instantly hooks you in and just refuses to let go. Author Blue Spruell has created a vivid and fantastical world that will transport you to magical medieval Japan. The story is mesmerizing, but the book is further elevated by its rich and colorful characters. I adored Taro, Tanuki, and Kamehime. Blue Spruell never shies away from violence as the action sequences are described in vivid detail with an almost cinematic fervor. I absolutely loved the book, and I will recommend it to any fantasy fan.

Vincent Dublado

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan is an engrossing re-imagining of one of Japan’s popular folktales that features the young hero named Taro. Author Blue Spruell combines fantasy with history as he weaves three unrelated Taro folktales into one. The result is a unique plot that rekindles Taro’s classic appeal that will endear him to contemporary readers. Spruell saw common characteristics in Taro’s animal companions (pheasant, monkey, and dog), to that of the three Great Unifiers of Feudal Japan (Oda, Hashiba, and Tokugawa). The story is divided into three parts set at a time when Japan’s Imperial Throne is at its most volatile state. Taro is a well-cared-for child who does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps. But a witch adopts him when he becomes an orphan, and as the animal denizens of the forest become his friends, his life takes a pivotal role in the control of Japan.

Taro exudes a magical element reminiscent of The Jungle Book. The animals in Taro’s world have the ability to communicate with him, and they play a crucial role in his early formation as a formidable warrior in the making. Spruell weaves an amazing blend of the factual and the fantastic that is made more captivating by the local color of the period. What started as a little excursion in writing a short story inspired Blue Spruell to go farther, allowing him to create connections in what are originally stand-alone adventures. Miya Outlaw’s illustrations further add depth to the sensory details, as her simple lines relate to emphasis and focus on Taro’s exploits. Immensely enjoyable in its new plot twist, this book can keep you engaged for an hour or two as it can be read in one sitting. Taro is a remarkable retelling that has all the endearing qualities that will stick in your mind, and you will hope that Spruell weaves a sequel.

Rabia Tanveer

Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan by Blue Spruell is the story of a young boy as he embarks on a journey of a lifetime. Taro is a young boy who wants nothing to do with samurais and the trouble they bring. But that is almost impossible as his father is a samurai. As the heir to the Kai Province, he is supposed to train and not spend his days immersed in books. However, that all changes when a witch takes him under her wing. This transforms Taro and gives him abilities he never dreamed of. With his magical animal friends from the forests of Mount Fuji at his side, Taro gains confidence in his abilities. When his fate takes him to a warlord in need, he realizes that hiding from his destiny is not worthy of a boy with the blood of samurai. Taro has some tough decisions to make, but will he ever make the right decision at the right time?

I adore mythology and actively look for mythologies of different cultures and countries. Although I have heard of Kintaro, I never looked deeper into it. This novel encapsulates the myth and brings a wholesome story that will keep readers of any age entertained. Taro is a smart boy; he understands his predicament and is not scared to take chances. He changes with time and as he realizes that he has bigger things to worry about. While the narrative is powerful on its own, the illustrations by Miya Outlaw tie the story together and make the reading experience even better. The narrative is magical, Taro’s development is powerful, and the story is powerful too. It is such a genius way of introducing something fantastic to general readers and opening new avenues for exploring different cultures. Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan by Blue Spruell is absolute perfection.