I'm not going to write a full review for this, since I've already done that a couple times and don't have much new to say. Instead, here's this quick thing:
Just finished my most recent reread of this book. It's both one of my top favorite books in this series and one of my favorite books period. I consider it a comfort read, even though the "comfort" is a little muffled by the knowledge that the book's happy ending turns sour really quickly in the series' timeline. During this reread, I realized that I really connect with Taiki's feelings of self-doubt. I also found myself more angry at Gyoso than I was during past readings of this book.
Not long after admitting to the oracles that he was worried about Taiki's future since Taiki was so riddled with self-doubt and couldn't consciously access his tremendous power, he decided he'd give up his sagehood, leave Tai, and become a mercenary. He was too ashamed of the fact that he hadn't been declared the new king to stick around, even though he'd have been a great help to Taiki and his future king.
Taiki had some serious weaknesses, but I'd argue that Gyoso did too, even though they weren't as obvious.
What my reading dates look like for this book so far:
Lol. I haven't checked, but I suspect that 2015 might have been the year I reread my hardcover copy rather than this one, my paperback copy, so it's pretty much been a reread a year for a while. (As usual with these Tokyopop editions, I highly recommend reading the paperback versions if you can, because there are fewer errors. If I remember right, this is the book where they accidentally used the wrong pronouns for one of the kirin.)
"'But you're a general of the kingsmen, so I'm sure I'll see you again,' Taiki looked up at Gyoso, forcing a smile - but the general merely frowned.
'I'm not returning to the kingsmen. I intend to relinquish my sagehood and leave Tai.'
Unconsciously, Taiki clenched his fists. 'But why? Why would you do that?'
'I am...unaccustomed to shame.'
Taiki's eyes opened wide; then, understanding washed over him.
'I'm not blaming you, my lord. If I'm an unsuitable vessel for kingship, there is nothing to be done about it.'"
Ono establishes pretty clearly that Taiki and Gyoso's upcoming fall is at least partly Taiki's fault. He's riddled with self-doubt and, although he has great power, he doesn't know how to consciously use any of it. I agree that Taiki's issues played a part in the Kingdom of Tai's future problems.
This is the first time I've read this and decided that Gyoso is at fault as well. He just had a conversation with one of the oracles in which he admitted that he was worried about Taiki's future and hoped that Taiki would have more time to adjust to the idea of being a kirin before choosing a king. Then, instead of preparing himself to wholeheartedly support Taiki and his future king, he decides that he's going to give all that up and just go off and become a mercenary or something. Never mind that he's widely respected and that his support would go a long way towards helping Taiki and his king. Never mind that he knows Taiki will need all the allies he can get. Nope, Gyoso is quitting because he's ashamed that he wasn't chosen to be the next king, even though he and everyone around him expected that he would be.
I remember not quite liking Gyoso the first time I read this book. This was due in large part to Taiki's initial fear of him, but I think I've come back around to not liking him again. Gyoso recognizes Taiki's weaknesses but doesn't realize that he has several of his own.
Ugh, I want Ono to finally complete Taiki's arc. I want some reassurance that he survives and comes into his own as a kirin. Considering what happens to him in the next book in his arc, though, I have serious doubts that a happy ending is possible. :-(
I get something new out of the books in this series each time I read them. I just realized that one of the reasons I probably like this one so much is because I really empathize with Taiki's sometimes crippling levels of self-doubt.
I'm sending out my yearly wish that this series gets a license rescue announcement this year. I want a pretty set of Twelve Kingdoms hardcovers that aren't riddled with editing mistakes. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Tokyopop hardcover edition of Skies of Dawn. I can't believe they accidentally cut an entire 8-page section out of that book.
I'm rereading this for the umpteenth time. It's one of my comfort reads, despite the fact that it's the only happy part of the life of a character whose fate (so far) is very tragic. I'm up to page 55 - Taiki has just made it to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms and is adjusting to being lovingly cared for by a bunch of priestesses.
I vaguely remember hearing that there was supposed to be a new book out in the series, at least in Japan. (In the US, I'm still waiting for a new publisher to license it, re-release the volumes Tokyopop put out, and release the ones that have so far only gotten fan translations.) I just checked, and that was back in 2016. It turns out it was delayed due to Ono's ill health, and I'm not sure what happened after that.