Takuan from Koto is a fun new fantasy adventure by Ryu Zhong. The MG story of the trickster Takuan takes places over three books, Prince of Blue Flowers, Hunters of Weredemons, and Envoys of Celestials, all set in a magical world that has certain links to Chinese myth and Asian geography of our own world.
I really enjoyed how the story incorporated familiar elements, such as the peaches of immortality (known to me from the Monkey King, but present in loads of other stories and artwork). There may be other Chinese mythological characters and classical allusions for readers who are more knowledgeable about Chinese and other Asian myths. The book's world is fantasy, but occasionally I'd notice a reference to a familiar place name, too. This makes the adventure story feel familiar and new at the same time.
The main narrative is about a young trickster character, who takes the name Takuan. This young boy plays a fun range of pranks, does impersonations and runs little scams, often to gain wealth, but also just for fun. This is both the classic character of any trickster myth, and a fun look at Ryu Zhong's unique world of Chinayindu.
Takuan plays tricks on almost everyone he encounters. Sometimes these are rich people, who are relieved of their cash and valuables through Takuan's smart tricks. Often these are greedy people who fall for Takuan's stories because they're too focused on money. Without revealing too much of the plot, I liked one moment when Takuan provided himself with a smart alibi and speedy getaway, while framing a greedy man who stole a horse from Takuan... a very recognizable noble's horse that Takuan himself had stolen first.
Takuan also sets up pompous rich people for embarrassment, even more than robbery. This isn't really a moral fable, but readers will enjoy watching jerks get their just rewards.
I said Takuan plays tricks on almost everyone he encounters, you see, it's not quite everyone he meets because he does show some kindness to people in need. Takuan doesn't really harass everyday people who are just going about their daily lives, either. He usually saves his trickery for greedy and rude people.
The story-telling style in Takuan from Koto feels just perfect for bedtime stories or for reading aloud in class each day. Each chapter brings a satisfying ending moment, with a hint that there's more to come with our trickster friend Takuan. There's not that overdone-cliffhanger feel, just a reminder that the adventure is still ongoing, and an invitation to come along, which is a nice way to pause a middle-grades chapter book.
This kind of enjoyable and engaging fiction for younger readers can be an important part of fostering a love for reading. These are engaging and imaginative adventure stories for kids to read, with an intriguing setting for a fun trickster adventure with magical elements.
Takuan from Koto is a trilogy of 3 Asian-influenced fantasy adventures: Prince of Blue Flowers, Hunters of Weredemons, and Envoys of Celestials. All 3 are written by Ryu Zhong, and published by Anno Ruini.