Manga-ka: Fumi Yoshinaga
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: October 2007
Synopsis: “In a castle in a far-off western land, there once lived a baron with empty eyes, whose melancholy ways belied a love of beauty and song. A wondrous garden surrounded the baron’s home–a place of quiet splendor that served to remind him of his painful, untended memories. Could the songs of two bards bring dreams of a happier tomorrow? Or would they bring more loss than the baron might possibly bear?”
Garden Dreams begins by introducing readers to Farha, a young boy raised by Saud, a young man who found Farha as a child alone in the desert. The two travel the lands as bards, and have found themselves singing for a Baron in the lands to the West. But sadness in the Baron’s eyes reveals a painful past and a subdued yearning for a better future.
I had heard a lot of good things about Garden Dreams, which didn’t surprise me as another title by the talented, Fumi Yoshinaga. And, yet again, Yoshinaga did not let me down, weaving a delicate tale of love and loss.
The story is presented in several out-of-order parts that introduce readers to the characters, and the characters to each other, before it becomes apparent that everything and everyone are connected in ways that will surprise and entertain. Whether intentional or not, I didn’t pick up on the character overlaps at first, which made my sudden realization halfway through the story have all the more impact. It’s those kinds of moments I adore when reading manga, when you realize a story’s been sneaking up on you with a well-hidden little secret that brings everything together in a wonderful roundabout web.
From sweet moments of love and happiness, to bittersweet moments of loss and trauma, Garden Dreams is certainly the kind of story that tugs at the heart strings. There are lots of great, unexpected moments that keep it as entertaining as it is enthralling. Every character has their own relevance to the story; from the unsociable Saud, to the cheery chambermaid, Natalie, and the ending packs a charming punch (you’ll get what I mean when you read it).
Needless to say, fans of Fumi Yoshinaga should pick up this book for more of what we’ve come to love about her work. Garden Dreams is also a one-shot and not a boys’ love story, making it a perfect choice for those who’ve been wanting to see what all the Yoshinaga-hype is about without committing to her longer series, such as Flower of Life or Antique Bakery, or aren’t into reading boys’ love.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a real treat; a light read but a touchingly memorable one and a book I’m sure to enjoy each and every time I revisit to it.
Review written September 6, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from vendor at Fan Expo 2008