Summary: Unique tale with a luscious Japanese setting!
It’s pretty common in fantasy book for the main character to discover their special power or destiny and then come to terms with it throughout the book. Are you a little tired of that old story-line? If you are, A Mortal Song is for you! This fantastical YA novel is set in Japan and throws that old trope out the window.
Sora is a kami, a mythical Japanese spirit that protects and maintains the earth. Or at least she thinks she is! On the eve of her 17th birthday, her home of Mount Fuji is ruthlessly attacked by a demon and a horde of ghosts. Sora narrowly escapes with the help of two other kami, her dragonfly friend Midori, and the handsome warrior Takeo. They seek the aid of an ancient kami seer to defeat the demon, save Sora’s parents (the kami king and queen) and retake Mount Fuji. But the seer turns Sora’s world upside down when she reveals that Sora is not the girl prophesied to save the kami. Her parents switched their real daughter, Chiyo, at birth with Sora to keep her safe from their enemies. Sora is human–not kami at all.
Despite this bombshell, Sora is determined to help her foster parents, and she, Takeo and Midori travel to Tokyo to find Chiyo, as well as three sacred artifacts that will help them defeat the demon and his ghostly minions. Hounded by ghosts at every step of the way and unsure who to trust, Sora must come to terms with her true identity and learn what it means to be human, before it’s too late.
This book is a page-turner with a unique premise. Sora was an extremely likeable character, tough but kind-hearted, talented but not entitled. You really feel for her when the rug is pulled out from under her and she realizes she is just a plain old human, but she doesn’t give up or wallow in self-pity too much (there’s a little self-pity, which is totally understandable). The characters are interesting and varied, and the differences between human and kami personalities is well-portrayed. The book is clearly very well researched from the settings across Japan to the kami mythology.
The story felt tailored to younger readers, almost leaning more towards a middle grade novel than YA. It was pretty clean, the romance was fairly innocent, and while the ghostly bad guys were unlikeable, nothing was that violent or horrible. Lovers of YA will still enjoy this book, however, especially if you are into Japanese culture and/or mythology!