Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Canongate Books
Source: Net Galley
Two sisters, Namima and Kamiku, born to the family of the oracle, are separated as children. Kamiku begins her training to become the next oracle, while Namima becomes Priestess of the Night.
The Goddess Chronicle—a retelling of the ancient Japanese myth of Izanami and Izanagi—pulls the reader deep into the realm of the undead.
Japanese crime queen Natsuo Kirino’s dark, twisted tale is a fantastical, fabulous tour-de-force. It is a dazzling story of sex, death, gods and revenge that will draw the reader in and won’t let go until the exhilarating end.
I am a fan of the Canongate Myths series and I am a fan of Natsuo Kirino who has this way of slipping into the heads of her characters so exactly and so seamlessly that it’s almost a surprise when you, the reader, resurface in the “real” world and realize that the people you have been reading about are characters and fictional. So to say I was looking forward to reading The Goddess Chronicle would have been an understatement. The premise is so fascinating and though I am not very familiar with Japanese mythology, I do know that Izanagi and Izanami do exist as mythical figures and the novel closely shadows or perhaps more appropriately, does attempt to bring to life these godly figures.
The mythology is rich and the potential for a layered complex tale with certain creative licenses taken was there. Unfortunately, the style and technique chosen to tell the story wasn’t, in my opinion, one that highlighted the mythology. Namima’s story was interesting enough and while I was reading that portion, I was invested into the story despite knowing Namima’s tragic end. I wanted to see how her short life would play out and what would happen to her in the underworld. Unfortunately, the majority of Izanami’s story is exposition where the readers are being told what is happening instead of being shown. Couple this with the complex nomenclature of the Japanese deities, reading became somewhat tedious and not what I would have expected something of the genre to be.
The ending, too, is strangely anticlimactic and unsatisfactory. There were no resolutions whatsoever and I understand that and even accept that in cases where actual mythology is transformed into fictional myth, too much deviation from the original can be detrimental and defamiliarizing. However, those characters that were wholly fictional could have had their storylines resolved. Namima never gets to confront her sister, she doesn’t get to talk to her daughter, she doesn’t even get to feel satisfaction from the death of the person who betrayed her. The novel was frustrating. However, the world building was splendid and Namima’s story was vividly portrayed. I don’t know if the novel would have been stronger in its original language and until I learn Japanese and read it in the language it was written, I guess I won’t be able to find out.