The spirits are waiting...
Book Links: Goodreads
Specially written for World Book Day, Shan's short Koyasan is sweet and often quite sinister. It runs in much the same vein as another of his works, Hagurosan, by which I mean it's aimed at his younger audience and works to convey positive themes and empowerment. Even as an adult reading this story, I can't help but appreciate the warm and fuzzy feelings, which are contrasted nicely by the scarier elements.
All in all, a wonderful little work which I'd recommend if you have a bit of free time or young children.
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Koyasan has never crossed the bridge to play with the other children in the graveyard.
She's afraid, and for good reason.
Evil spirits lie in wait, and although it's safe during the day, Koyasan never wants to chance it.
Until tragedy befalls her family.
Her sister's soul is ripped from her body and only Koyasan can save it.
Only, she'll have to enter the graveyard at night and face unspeakable horrors...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
You get exactly what the blurb gives you: A suspenseful story that holds a warm lesson. There's fantasy, action and fist-pumping empowerment. It's perfect for young children, whether they're avid readers or not.
But the best part of the plot is the wisdom it imparts. The strongest of these themes is the prominent battle to overcome your fears. I love the way Shan shows us that fears are almost always just our imagination running rampid. That what we think and what is can be completely different. Koyasan's journey has her unravelling her own misinterpretations, essentially ripping apart her fears. It's a great indication to have all the facts before a judgement.
There's also a poignant point about loneliness and neglect. It ties in nicely with my previous observation. If you project your misguided judgements onto others, then it's going to have an impact. If you keep hitting someone with something, beating them down, then they effectively become that misgiving. What I get from this is that, even when this happens, it's never too late to correct. The world might beat you down, but it's up to you to learn from the experience.
We can always better ourselves, and Shan drives this home with a heartwarming ending.
Pace - 5/5 Stars
While longer than Hagurosan, Koyasan is fast-paced and short.
It's the perfect bedtime story for your kids (or yourself).
Characters - 4.5/5 Stars
While not overly complex, Shan's cast, especially our main, make up the difference by being brilliant nuggets of light. They're the messengers of the story, with jobs to do and emotions to invoke. But that blankness also lets readers slip easily into Koyasan's shoes. We feel what she feels, share her fears, because at one time or another, her fears were ours.
The spirits prove to be the highlight. They're perfectly portrayed as despicable and sinister, and the twist at the end really draws together the various themes. One of my favourite parts is Koyasan's younger sister Maiko returning from the graveyard. Eerie as hell.
Writing - 5/5 Stars
Shan doesn't waste time: He sets the scenes quickly, conveys the character's goals and fears, and rattles the story onwards. Descriptions nail what they intend and for less than an hour's worth of reading, it's time well spent.
Overall - 5/5 Stars
I just checked how many more Darren Shan novels I have left before I'm all caught up...
Four more books! What!? No!
I need more!
For more Darren Shan reviews: Index
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