Book Review: The Goddess Chronicle, by Natsuo Kirino, translation by Rebecca Copeland

Canongate Books
309 pp.

The Goddess Chronicle does not go anywhere, and I am pretty sure it is not supposed to. Our protagonist is a young woman named Namima. She is dead and has been dead for a very long time. She serves a goddess who is dead and has been dead for a long time. Both our protagonist and her goddess have a lot in common besides being dead; both were betrayed by the men in their lives, and this book is mostly about how they were betrayed and what they did about it. (Spoiler: This is a very literary fantasy by which I mean there is nothing but ennui all the way down and no one cares.)

Namima and her sister Kamikuu are both chosen to be priestesses. Kamikuu is a priestess of heaven and Namima is chosen to be a priestess of the underworld, a role that requires complete isolation and ritual shunning. Rebellion in the name of love and compassion leads to Namima being betrayed by the young man whom she fell in love with, and her death. Namima ends up in the realm of the dead, where she is taken in by the goddess Izanami, who has some very severe issues about the betrayal she suffered at the hands of her husband Izanaki.

This is one of those books where I definitely think the book is good, but I do not actually like the book. Namima is a sad and tragic character, but there isn’t really a lot to her character arc. She weathers a terrible betrayal, seeks revenge, and accidentally sets off a sequence of events that she has no control over. (Not of course, that she had much control over any aspect of her death or afterlife to begin with.) This is not a book for someone who expects characters to grow and learn from their experiences. Or who like to see an actual resolution to the problems presented in the story. That said, there is a lot of interesting mythology and world building within the story, and it at least held my attention, though I don’t like the outcome.


The Goddess Chronicle on Amazon

The Goddess Chronicle on Powell’s Books

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Filed under fantasy, Natsuo Kirino, Review: Book

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