The Eagle and the Sparrow

Book 7 the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy

Fiction - Fantasy - General
454 Pages
Reviewed on 06/22/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Eagle and the Sparrow is a work of fiction in the historical and fantasy sub-genres and was penned by author Claire Youmans. The seventh novel in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy collection, the work is suitable for readers of all ages, though it does accurately reflect the uglier side of Japanese culture and history as much as the beauty. Set in the Meiji Era in 1875, the story continues as dual-natured beings discover the difficulties of living as humans amid tumultuous and changing times. As characters fall in love, are separated and face various heartaches, so the ensemble comes together against the backdrop of wickedness, selfishness, and greed in Japan.

Author Claire Youmans has crafted a fascinating and truly unique fantasy series that delves deep into Japanese folklore and stays true to the core values of its culture and historical heritage. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of Shota the Sparrow-Boy, who feels his duty painfully but is also going through an important emotional crisis during this tale. The geographical settings of the piece mix well with the folklore elements, and the various characters’ ability to fly, which allows us more scope and more beautifully described vistas and locations as the novel progresses. Highly suitable for teen readers and upwards, there is much to learn in the accurate history that the author weaves amongst her fantasy storylines, and overall I would highly recommend The Eagle and the Sparrow as a must-read for those seeking original fantasy works from other cultures.

Ruffina Oserio

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is book 7 in The Eagle and the Sparrow series by Claire Youmans, a fascinating entry in a series set in the Meiji Era between 1875 and 1876. It is a period of transformation, with new inventions and systems that deeply affected how people related to themselves and how they saw the world around them. In this narrative, the author weaves a yarn that captures the colorful and adventurous folklore of Japanese culture. Toki-Girl Azuki finds out about the Eagle-Boy Akira from a distant Hokkaido, but can his dual nature allow him to live with her family? Sparrow-Boy has his own struggles and as much as he wants to help Akira, he must overcome his own limitations. Irtysh is a dual-natured Western Dragon Prince who is in love and devastated by the thought that his love might not be reciprocated.

Claire Youmans transports readers to the Japanese world of folklore and shares stories of characters that are not-so-normal, dual-natured humans struggling with historical changes happening around them. It is against the backdrop of a changing world that these characters seek love, friendship, freedom, and acceptance. Written in a style that is enticing, The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is permeated by realism. The characters are compelling and while some of the key characters are dual-natured, their humanity is beautifully captured in the stories, and readers can easily feel their pain and relate to their thrills and frustrations. I enjoyed the gorgeous writing that is filled with vivid descriptions, the deft handling of the plot, and the author’s gift for character. But the world into which this novel pulls the reader is what sets the story apart.

Asher Syed

Claire Youmans' seventh book in the Japanese fantasy folklore The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow series, The Eagle and the Sparrow comes on the heels of its popular predecessors Coming Home, Chasing Dreams, Together, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure, Noriko's Journey, The Dragon Sisters, and the prequel The Sparrows of Pussan. Azuki and her brother Shota are what Youmans calls dual-natured. They are among a special group that can take a form that is either human or bird living in historical Japan. In the form of a beautiful and rare Toki bird, Azuki moves between the coexisting world of her animal family and her human family alongside her sparrow-human brother Shota. Among their friends is an eagle-human named Akira that is nursed back to health and keen to connect himself to the family. The story is told from different point of view characters that also include an almost all-knowing and all-seeing Western Dragon Prince named Irtysh in an interconnecting subplot that bonds two worlds and themes of sacrifice, longing, love, solidarity, change, uncertainty, and danger.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is so much more than just another fantasy series and The Eagle and the Sparrow cements Claire Youmans as a premier author of Japanese mythology. Azuki and Shota are joined as sister and brother, but also as orphans who are coming of age at the same time that Japan as a country is doing the same. Surprisingly, my favorite character is the omniscient Dragon Prince Irtysh who is cloaked in an air of mystery around his motivations and has his insecurities exposed with love and human impersonation even as an authoritative figure. Azuki is a good and kind protagonist with a strength of character. Shota is equally good and kind but doesn't possess as much of Azuki's intuition and this puts him and Akira in grave danger when they try to carry out a plan to sell fish. Even though the book is part of a series, it can technically be read as a standalone but without the backstory that unfolds in the previous books readers will miss out on a lot of the plot's context and could easily get lost with the volume of characters. Youmans does provide a glossary of terms and descriptions of things that would be unfamiliar to most readers, but having read this installment I now want to go back and start the series from its first book. It's too good not to.

Jamie Michele

The Eagle and the Sparrow by Claire Youmans is the seventh book in the historical fantasy fiction series The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy. Set during the 19th-century Meiji era, a time of rapid change and Western influence in Japanese history, the storyline continues from the previous books wherein the protagonist is Azuki, a girl who shapeshifts into the beautiful Crested Ibis, a Toki, and her brother Shota takes the Sparrow form. Through a blend of Japanese folklore, therianthropy, and detailed period history, Azuki brings home her injured friend named Akira, a boy who is also dual-natured and can shift into a Sea Eagle. Akira struggles to find his place in the human world while Shota must learn how to manage the family estate, an overwhelming prospect, and one fraught with a tenuous past wherein Azuki had to sacrifice pieces of herself. It's not long before Azuki is tested again when Shota and Akira find themselves forced into the fringes of servitude.

The Eagle and the Sparrow is a wonderfully imaginative book that breathes life into historic fables for a new generation of readers. Claire Youmans is a master storyteller with descriptions that are vividly constructed and a narrative that is simple to follow, even with the use of some Japanese words and a large cast of ancillary characters. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Japan in the throes of an industrial and societal transformation through the eyes of the youth who have only known a notoriously homogeneous and devoutly traditional country. There is a scene where they are discussing new food types from other East Asian countries with keen interest, cementing the curious nature lent to both their age and personalities. All of this is woven together with gorgeous artwork throughout to complete a book that has a great deal to offer readers of all ages.