Hardcover, 312 pages
Expected publication: January 2nd 2013 by HarperTeen
The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.
Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…
Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.
I had been looking forward to Prophecy ever since I read the synopsis. It sounds so bloody fantastic. But alas.
Okay, this may be unfair considering that the novel is Oh’s debut but I could not help but compare Prophecy to Eon/Eona. Considering the thematic nature and the similarities in not just setting but also subject matter, comparisons are inevitable. The Eon/Eona duology, though not without flaws, is a sophisticated work where prose, plotting and characterization are concerned. The novels are well thought out and the world building is detailed and exquisite. So when I say the bar was set high…it would be an understatement.
Prophecy is original in that the setting is a mythical Korea and while we have seen mythical Japan, we, or at least I, have not seen a Korean setting for any YA novel. I studied Korean for four years in University and I can speak and write it though not as fluently as I would like to. I am also familiar with the culture and the food of the place though I am not a great aficionado of the pop music. Dramas are what I love and keep reading for a chance to see me cast Prophecy with Korean actors. Anyway, back to the review.
Kira could have been a very interesting character had Oh given her a chance to develop on her own rather than handing all aspects and facets of her personality to us. Showing rather than telling would have been better and the pacing is a bit too fast. Oh relies too much on reader familiarity with the trope. What I mean by this is that though readers have seen many female warriors in fantasy novels, each one is different and each one deserves careful development. Kira doesn’t get that development. We meet her and are immediately flung into the action. There needed to be more visual descriptions – that would have served to slow the pace as well as give us secondhand information about Kira – how she kept her room, what was in her room, her private conversations with her mother – these would have spoken immensely about her character. I also did not appreciate how the court ladies were immediately shoved into a stereotype – there was no delicacy to this and I would have loved to see something extra, a quick explanation about these court ladies, an explanation of their motivations and an understanding beyond the superficial “they hate me because I am not feminine like them.” Also, I really did not buy the hatred the King has for Kira. I would think that saving his son would be enough to overrule his objections to her femininity.
It would have been so awesome to see a scene where Kira’s parents receive gifts from the uncle who wants his nephew to marry Kira. There was potential for so much in the way the gifts would have been received and Kira’s reaction to the gifts and to the evidence that someone desired her as she was and not as she should be. Instead, we have the first side of a love triangle forcefully established as Kira faces the dude who wants to marry her and instead of being totally repulsed by him she is unwillingly intrigued and that is it to their relationship. There is no gradual growth or conversation or any communication really apart from him popping up at odd intervals vowing to take Kira back as she is his betrothed and he cannot wait to have her writhing beneath him. I’m rolling my eyes here.
The other love interest, Jae something, is very interesting and perhaps one of the few people I was really intrigued by. The prince is very annoying simply because he is not very princely. If there is trouble to be got into, he gets into it. I would think that he being the prince of a country, would be aware of his importance to his people and would act thusly. However, he lacks the gravitas which is a bit unbelieving because despite his young age, he has been brought up to be the next king so it makes no sense that he would insist on going to places and in situations that could potentially kill him.
The pacing, as I have said, felt rushed and the plotting didn’t appeal to me either. Korean culture and myth is so rich and so many of the mythical elements could have been worked into the narrative. Alas, not many of them were and I was just disappointed.
There were a lot of terms used in the narrative that I hope will be placed in a glossary so that those not familiar with the language will be able to better visualize and understand. There were a couple of things I had a bit of trouble with. For one thing, “kumiho” (nine-tailed fox) is spelled (in Korean) 구미호. The ㄱ is usually a “g” sound and so, as far as I know, it is not “kumiho” but “gumiho.” The “k” sound comes in the hangul letter ㄲ. Also “Omanim” troubled me a bit because I’ve heard 엄마 (Omma) and 어머니 (Omoni which is a lot more formal than Omma and therefore the most likely to be called 어머님) but don’t quote me on that as I’m not sure.
I have now written an essay on the book. Sorry. If it’s tl:dr, just take this away: I wish I could have liked the novel a lot more than I did. It did not live up to my expectations. However, don’t take my word for it. Make up your own mind.
The Drama Casting!
I had a few actors in my mind for this role but ultimately I went with Park Min Young because I thought she’d acquit herself rather well.
For the two sides of the love triangle, I would cast Woo Bin as the negative one (because he’s really pretty and I think he’d do an awesome job) and Kim Bum as the loveable Jae because he has dimples and that’s who I imagined Jae to look like. So Woo Bin and Kim Bum:
The prince is 12 years old but I think I’d cast Yeo Jin Gu because he’s good at acting princely and in fact has done so several times.
I would cast the two brothers but they have such little part that I don’t feel like doing so. Oh also, there really needed to be more girls in this novel.