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Tale of a White Night

by Tooko Miyagi
DMP, 184 pp.
Rating: Young Adults (16+)

Tale of a White Night is a collection of short works from Tooko Miyagi and is the first time I’ve ever been exposed to her work. The volume is split into two sections, the first consisting of several stand alone tales which are akin to ghost stories, while the second is a single fantasy piece entitled “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” in which a young girl seeks out the person who betrayed her village.

Out of the two halves of the volume, I think the first was my favorite. It opens with a creepy little tale about a young man’s encounter with some oni and the bizarre obsession that some oni have with a human being’s legs. From there they range from a dreary tale about a secret from long ago and how it comes back to haunt the children who shared it, to a rather humorous story involving a young girl lost in the woods and confronted by the local wolf deities. That doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining though. Watching some of the stories play out is quite interesting, my favorite being the one of the girl on the mountain and the fox gods who reside there. All of these are short, stand alone stories that which follow a certain formula consisting of set up followed by a tragic twist at the end. Despite the heavy reliance on this formula nearly every tale is marked with a strong, haunting sense of loss to the point where several feel almost mournful. The lengthier tale, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” is set in a fantasy world where the dark skinned Remulus people were all but wiped out by another kingdom. The Remulus’ village had previously been hidden and a secret so Jilldora, a Remulus survivor, heads off in search of the person who betrayed her people and is responsible for the death of her brother as a result. The story focuses heavily on Jilldora’s indecision regarding what she’s actually going to do once she finds this peson. There’s a marked difference in the tone of this tale from the earlier ones and it makes this story’s inclusion feel a bit odd. On top of that Jilldora isn’t a terribly interesting character. Her entire people were all but wiped off the map, she watched her brother die and she can’t decide on what she’ll do once she finds the man responsible. That’s taking indecision to a whole new level, especially since at no point does she seem terribly angry or hell bent of vengeance, so it’s not a tale about her learning to forgive or anything.

Much like the stories in each half, Tooko Miyagi’s artwork varies drastically between them. The first half of the volume features some fine, almost delicate looking artwork. The lack of blacks or heavy lines cause each tale to take an almost dreamlike quality which adds to their haunting, foggy, half remembered dream like tone. The artwork in “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” looks like a different creature entirely. It’s not quite as detailed and the line work is much thicker, giving it a more solid and sturdy look. It almost makes it look a tad more generic than the first half. The costume designs in the longer story are a bit odd as well with one character, Raul, sporting a weird combination of loose fitting, just above the knee khaki shorts with knee high fantasy boots.

Tale of a White Night is an odd collection. The first half of the book is a nice collection of short, spooky and haunting reads, while the second half is an unmemorable fantasy tale. The tone shift between the two is so drastic that it almost gave me whiplash. I wasn’t that into “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, but I really enjoyed the first half and kind of wish the whole book was made up similar tales.

Tale of a White Night is available now. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. October 21, 2010 at 8:03 am

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