Sunday, August 6, 2023

Today's read... Soara and the House of Monsters by Hidenori Yamaji

I've found time to squeeze in this month's Joker Read! I've really been looking forward to diving into this one thanks to the cover. The details in the tree house invite to fantasy pure. Plus, I'm thinking that this read might dive more into architecture...and the cutest creatures?

Volume 1
by Hidenori Yamaji
Seven Seas
Middle Grade / YA Fantasy Manga
206 pages
ages 10 and up


In this delightful and intricately illustrated fantasy tale, a girl who was raised to fight monsters starts building cozy homes for them instead!

Soara is a young orphan girl who was raised by knights and trained to fight against marauding monsters. By the time Soara is old enough to join the fray, her blade is no longer needed, as peace has been declared with monsters. Searching for a new calling, Soara stumbles upon Kirik the dwarf, Architect of the Monster World. Suddenly, instead of fighting monsters, Soara finds herself working alongside Kirik to build comfortable homes for monsterkind! In the course of her new career, will Soara find a home for herself?

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Creativity slams into fantasy with a touch of action to create a fun read about building amazing homes in an imaginative world.

Soara hasn't had a kind life. As an orphan, she was taken and trained to be a fighter in the war against monsters, a job she was very, very good at. Just before being proclaimed by the king to the mightiest monster fight in the realm, the war ended. Left wandering with no home and no idea about what to do with her life, she happens across an odd group of dwarves, who are on a mission to build ideal homes for the devastated monster world. The group allows her to tag along, although she herself isn't sure what her intentions might be or where this will lead her.

Soara's history is skimmed through at a rapid pace, giving just enough to understand her situation without weighing down before the main thrust of the tale. Her hestitation, concerns, and suspicions are more than understandable, and this is nicely plays in in the illustrations. Often, the monsters and surroundings visually hang on the border of dangerous and strange, and there are even moments where things do get tense and deadly. But most of the time, it's tons of fun to see what creative creatures are going to pop up next.

The dwarves are born architects and construction pros. Each of their projects portrays an illustration of the initial home of their client as well as a final sketch of the improved version. The imagination hits in all the best ways, not only in the house layout but in the very creative materials. The notes explaining the highlights (or downfalls) of each home are a treat and might spark architectural ideas in readers as well.

Then, there's the emotional message, which adds depth. Soara has to deal with her view of monsters being flipped on its head, and that to the extreme. Friendship, learning what it means to have a home, and helping others are more aspects, which make the tale shine. 

While it might seem that the gentle side of the plot could stifle any real adventure, this also isn't the case. Like humans, not every monster is kind. There are action scenes and tense moments to let Soara's years of training come to light. Plus, the end of this first volume opens the door to an entirely new promise of dangerous tension. I'll be keeping my eyes open because I'm exciting to see where volume two will take the group next.

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