Twelve Kingdoms Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas

Twelve Kingdoms Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas by Fuyumi Ono

The Twelve Kingdoms books are the only series of light novels that I follow with great enthusiasm. I like the Twelve Kingdoms anime quite a bit, but since the story didn’t conclude in the anime so I look to the novels to fill in the gaps. I’ve read the first and second novels in this series, and from what I remember they closely parallel the anime. The Vast Spread of the Seas focuses on one of the more dynamic characters shown in the anime adaptation, the King of En.

The fantastic world of the Twelve Kingdoms lies across a vast sea from Japan, and frequently people from the Twelve Kingdoms end up accidentally being born in Japan. So there is a steady stream of immigrants from Japan coming over to fill important roles in the Chinese-inspired fantasy world which filled with scheming government officials, talking animals, and demons. The King of En was found by his kirin Rokuta who is a mythical beast who performs the will of heaven by choosing a ruler, just when he was losing his small seafaring colony in Japan. Faced with the inevitable destruction of his people and the opportunity to rebuild a kingdom in another world Naotaka agrees to journey far away from Japan and takes the new name Shoryu.

Rokuta was abandoned as a young child so he feels horrible about the state of the Kingdom of En which was brought near the edge of destruction by the previous king. So he is less than happy when Shoryu appears to spend his days lazing around, gambling, and chasing after loose women. Rokuta previously met another abandoned child who was raised by a demon. Rokuta gives the barely literate child the name Koya and promises that one day the Kingdom of En will be save for him and his demon to live together without being persecuted. Several years later the Kingdom of En has just begun to recover but the new King still seems hesitant to clean house of the corrupt government officials that gained power during the reign of the old King.

Rokuta ends up being kidnapped by a governor of a province who appears to care greatly about his people and he has some sympathy for his captor as it appears that he might be a more effective ruler than Shoryu. He meets Koya again who is now in the service of his kidnapper. Little does Rokuta know that while Shoryu was carefully cultivating the reputation of an idiot king he was actually sneaking around his own kingdom as a royal super-spy. A crisis occurs and Shoryu proves to Rokuta that he does have the capacity to become a capable ruler. Shoryu’s charismatic nature and innate sneakiness made finding out how he prevented civil war and preserved his kingdom very entertaining. I think this is my favorite of the Twelve Kingdom books so far, and I’m very much looking forward to the fourth volume in the hopes that I’ll encounter some new characters or storylines that weren’t present in anime version of the story.

Review copy provided by the publisher.