Naomi, Jim and Doug have followed their friend Mel who was kidnapped into a strange new world from Earth. Each of them have encountered a guardian from different areas of the world that have taken Jim and Doug under their wings. Now it is Naomi's turn.
Naomi travels with Fly through the secret tunnels to the village of the elder Umnida. But unbeknownst to them, the village has been attacked and is in flames. Jim and Doug are fine, but Jim is injured, and discovers that his totem power, Suiran, can give him the power to heal his own wounds and those of others. However, overusing the power saps his life force and exhausts him.
Meanwhile, Naomi and Fly reach the village and are taken to meet the elder, Umnida. All of the people here are cat-like people, with fur and slit-pupiled eyes. Along with the rest of the villagers, they flee under the village to the secret tunnels, where they hide. But not all of the villagers are happy with Naomi. One young woman, Miko, is angry with Naomi for not getting to the village sooner and defending it against attack.
Naomi can't argue, because she's also angry with herself for the same thing. Miko's twin Khann tries to comfort Naomi, but Naomi falls suddenly asleep, where she has a vision of the supernatural totem Suzaku, who controls the power of fire. He asks Naomi to free him, and she agrees. As a sign of that agreement and their pact, he gifts her with a ring and tells her to seek the dead tree which still drops leaves.
When she comes to, she is surprised to hear that the General, Uro, who is attacking the village, agreed to stop the attack if Naomi comes out. Even though pretty much everyone knows that he is lying, Naomi agrees to go out to protect the villagers.
The thing attacking the village is a huge, bloated-looking lizard that can breathe fire. But when Naomi tries to fight it, she instead can see into its memories and discovers that it is actually just a little, frightened baby lizard being controlled by Uro. But can she free it from its shackles and find and free Suzaku?
And can the four friends find and free their friend, Mel, before she is corrupted and turned to the side of Uro? Or is it already too late? And is Mel really acting on her own, or is she being controlled like the baby lizard? How can her friends find her and free her before it is too late?
Another volume in the Vermonia series, this one focusing on Naomi. And with this volume, it's become obvious that the series is relying on the old "Guardian Spirits" aspects of the four directions- Suzaku the Pheonix, Genbu the Tortoise, Seiryu the Dragon, and Byakko the White tiger. Even if the names and the animals are slightly different here, calling Naomi's guardian spirit Suzaku is a dead giveaway.
Since the animals so far have been tied to the earth, air and fire, Mel's guardian spirit is going to be water and have ties to Genbu. Not really a big surprise, as I have seen these same ideas in, at the very least, Yu Yu Hakusho and Fushigi Yugi and Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. So if you have read any of those, you will recognize the characters and concepts.
But this volume has made me anxious to see if (and when) Mel gets to bond with her spirit, and the forthcoming war. I don't know if the upcoming war between the villagers of the four lands will take very long, in story terms, or if the story will be over at the end of the next book, I do want to see it, but so far, the story has seemed almost too easy for the characters. Stuff happens, but they don't seem to have to struggle at it much. I mean, Naomi practically trips over the place where her totem/guardian is imprisoned.
So far, this series has had a lack of feeling of actual accomplishment for its heroes and this book was decidedly worse in that regard the others. It almost seems that the creators are getting tired of writing and drawing the series, which is strange, as it is so short. I'll keep reading, but I hope it gets better. Recommended somewhat.