Grayish-black skin gleamed as it filled her vision entirely, until all she saw before her was a face. Black eyes with red pupils stared at her while the great slash of a mouth turned into a large, gaping hole that pulled itself into a bizarre semblance of a smile. This creature looked nothing like she'd imagined. It was far worse.
Kira looked into the black eyes and found horror and death staring back at her. She tore her gaze away and saw the cavern had changed into a battlefield. Kwas and Jaewon fought Yamato soldiers of incredible speed and strength. One soldier looked directly at her, his skin melting away to reveal the demon underneath. Grinning, the demon stabbed Jaewon through his abdomen, while other creatures dragged Kwan from view.
The battlefield went up in a blaze of fire and then burned out to reveal Taejo alone, surrounded and outnumbered, but fighting bravely. A horde of half-breed soldiers rushed him all at once, engulfing Taejo until he disappeared.
"Taejo!" Kira screamed. "Taejo!"
She turned to the Demon Lord. "What do you want?"
The monster laughed. Smoke billowed from its mouth.
"The end of you all!" it replied, the voice bellowing as the enormous mouth grew larger and closer, until it surrounded her in darkness.
The only female fighter in the King's army, Kira was born with a curse- yellow eyes that can see the demons that are trying to overrun the country and destroy the Kingdom. Demonslayer and outcast, Kira goes on the run with the young prince when the Kingdom is betrayed and the King is murdered. With only the guidance of a cryptic prophecy, Kira and the prince may be the saviors of the world, but first they must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord in order to survive.
Ellen Oh writes a wonderful beginning of a trilogy blending Korean folklore with a full fantasy adventure. Kira, daughter of the weaponsmaster, was born with the ability to see demons- called a kumiho by her clansmen, she is outcast yet is sworn to protect her young prince from the demons that seem to be invading with alarming frequency. When the Kingdom is betrayed and the King killed, Kira takes Taejo and hides within the countryside and runs to an uncle's Kingdom for protection. Meanwhile, the monks believe that Taejo, or possibly Kira, is the Dragon Warrior, the one destined to defeat the Demon Lord and unite the Kingdoms in peace. Yet how can a teenage girl and a young boy unite the fractured kingdoms with all the evil against them? Highly intertwined with Korean tradition, Kira is extremely believable and has her own doubts about her own abilities that make her very reachable to teens. The challenges she faces, and the story that Oh weaves, leave readers tearing through to the end, and desperately waiting for the next book to see what will happen next. A good paring with Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona series, or Cashore's Graceling. 4 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads has Prophecy listed at 3.51 stars.
NOTE: There is a LOT of sword fighting in this book, and mass suicide. It is not extremely graphic, but it is there, and I have some impressionable teens who, while they would love the world Oh builds, would not be comfortable with the fighting or the images of the suicides.
I loved this book. The world is so beautiful, the writing is so lush, and I didn't want it to end. I think teens will really relate to Kira and her outcast status, and her abilities to see demons where no one else can see just adds to her "awesomeness" factor. I can see Kira taking her place with Eona or Katniss- she's that dedicated to her family and her mission, as much as they are, and her story is just as heartbreaking as theirs are.
The prejudice against Kira is more than her yellow eyes, it is her roughness as well. She's a woman fulfilling a man's role, and that is completely unacceptable in the realm; it's driven home early on when the Queen (Kira's aunt) arranges for her marriage even though she is the sworn protector to the young prince. The duality of her roles, and the challenge of fulfilling both her duties and her desires, will be interesting in the coming books.