Manga-ka: Rei Toma
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2013
Synopsis: “Princess Nakaba of Senan and Prince Caesar of Belquat married each other for the sake of peace between their warring countries, yet the two find themselves drawn to each other even as political forces threaten to tear their world apart. In Lithuanel, Nakaba desperately searches for a way to save both her friend Akhil and his brother Azhal. Unfortunately, her visions show that only one of them will live. Meanwhile, Caesar’s return to Belquat may mean the end of his relationship with Nakaba…”
I’ve made no secret about my frustrations with this series every time I write about it, and yet I keep on buying each and every volume as it comes out. Volume one had moments that impressed me, but they were buried under a stiff delivery and disappointing character devolution. While time has helped the pacing issues, the change of Nakaba’s character from strong, independent woman to a cowering dependent remained on-going. Throw in the love triangle created when she falls for her abuser, and leaves her loyal best friend on the sidelines, and you have a mixed bag of yuck.
But wait, you may be wondering, ‘why is this reviewer still reading the series then?’. The answer is volumes like this. (Warning: Review will contain spoilers)
A lot of surprising things happened in this book, including a time skip. First, however, the volume deals with the results of Nakaba’s latest vision in volume nine where she’s confronted with needing to choose between two lives. We see here how she deals with it, and it was the first of several moments to surprise and impress me in this book. I thought she would do the obvious of warning all involved but events up until now have forced on her a belief in futility. And yet, she still does something about it, and though unexpected, and perhaps perceived as a little cruel, I thought it was brilliant.
Jump ahead three months. Nakaba and Caesar are still apart after Caesar left to return home and work to gain control over the kingdom of Belquat. His brother’s death has left the kingdom in need of a new heir, and the country in desperate need of a reform that he hopes to spearhead. This requires some sacrifices, and one of those is taking a second wife. While trapped adhering to the whims of his Mother and the court, he’s still working towards a goal. The volume doesn’t spend much time with him, which really works to its advantage. I hated Caesar when he was a jerky, abusive prick but it did make him a lot more interesting.
Elsewhere, in the country of Senan, Nakaba has resolved to master her Arcana abilities and use them to others’ benefit. In three months, she’s accomplished a lot in securing a position within the opposing country and working to prepare it to one day combine with Belquat, and overturn the racial laws that abuse the Ajin. To do so, she wed the surviving Senan prince, Adel. Loki remains at her side, ever vigilant as always. This new marriage doesn’t weigh on him as her’s to Caesar had, because she has no romantic feelings for Adel and he doesn’t abuse her. It is a marriage of politics and convenience, and Nakaba is using it to its full extent.
Nakaba is really what made this volume great. It’s clear she’s been working hard and is unafraid to risk herself in the process. She revealed her power to the court and uses it for them in exchange for being allowed to marry into the royal family, and guarantee the release of her friend’s Mother. She is frequently using her powers to glimpse the past, the present and the future, and despite misgivings the population has of her witch-like abilities, she personally sees to it that they save lives. I like that via her ability to look into the past – or more specifically now, her inability to look into the past – we glimpse another emerging plot point involving Nakaba’s Father.
All in all, Dawn of the Arcana (Vol. 10) was easily my favourite in the series to date. It set aside the relationship drama for focus on Nakaba’s abilities and the resolve she initially began the series with to turn the twists of fate to her side. I loved seeing that strong, focused side of her return and it makes me actually look forward to the next volume. This is the story I wanted Dawn of the Arcana to be, and I hope it continues.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Book purchased at Strange Adventures