“Planet Victoria is divided into two realms – the human realm and the spirit realm.” The picturesque setting for Volume One of Mythic Waters: Shoki’s Bag offers a welcoming, if not familiar landscape. The two realms have a symbiotic relationship, but there is a great divide between them. Humans cannot cross unaided into the spirit world, and spirit creatures are in grave danger if they venture into the human realm.
“Halfway between nowhere and never been,” we meet Shoki, a circus strongman with a carpetbag full of problems. He soon runs into Nix, a water spirit who has just been robbed of her powers. The action gets underway as Shoki and Nix team up and hit the road. With several shadowy figures lurking not far behind, and at least two pairs of bad guys to fight off right away, the two have their hands full trying to track down and rescue Nix’s baby sister, Princess Zara.
Meanwhile, Shoki’s carpetbag is full of black ooze, and sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. The ooze represents his past, his shame and anger, and an assortment of other emotions that are keeping him away from those he loves. While the metaphor is a bit on the nose, the characters are so endearing and the story moves so quickly that the use of one cliché is easily forgiven.
The middle of the book reads much like a buddy comedy and has elements of a road movie, but author Kate Chaplin manages to maintain the drama throughout and stays true to the fantasy genre. The characters quickly become very real and don’t read like stereotypes. Her deft use of imagery makes it easy for the imagination to conjure a mental picture, and the steampunk circus from whence Shoki hails makes for quite the visual menagerie. This assemblage has everything from French clowns (a.k.a. capers) to fire-breathing acrobats.
For those who are counting, the story has two protagonists: a gentle giant sort of man and a strong but vulnerable young girl. The bond between Nix and Shoki is most like a father-daughter relationship, and it feels sentimental yet unforced. Overall, this book is a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. This is one to take with you on vacation, but beware: it’s such a page turner you just might finish it before you get off the airplane.