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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.