Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vermonia,Volume 5: The Warrior's Trial by Yoyo

Jim, Doug, Mel and Naomi were just skateboarders on Earth who came together to form a band, but when Mel was kidnapped to an alternate world, the other three followed her, hoping to rescue their friend. They found a world conquered long ago by General Uro, who rebelled against the real Queen. She managed to protect the four elements from him by using her followers to merge with the shrines, becoming pillars that support the land and protect it from ultimate dominion by Uro. Each of the band members and friends became one with one of the elemental guardians, gaining access to powers to call on and a beastly companion that aids them in battle.

Mel, however, remains imprisoned by Acidulous, one of Uro's followers, and her melding with her guardian is incomplete, because Acidulous wants to take the power of the bonding for himself. Mel is allowed some freedom, but she realizes that Acidulous is not a completely willing follower of General Uro. Although she doesn't know what could cause someone to do what he has done, she has sympathy for him and hardly realizes that his turning by Uro was so that he wouldn't have to face up to the ultimate grief of losing the woman he loved.

Jim has dived into the lake to rescue Rainbow, who he has feelings for, from drowning. But it's not really Rainbow, but one of Uro's female warriors, who is using the power of the lake, and its ability to make people see what they most love, against them. But when Doug joins them, another illusion, that of Naomi, is added to what they must face. But can they convince the power of the lake that they are on its side, trying to fight for Vermonia against General Uro?

Meanwhile, Naomi, Fly, Khaan, and the rest of the Potonawi, having failed to prevent the takeover of the temple of the pillar of flame, are fighting against one of Uro's creatures. But Naomi's powers, given by Suzaku, are running out, and to call on even more of his power, she mustaccept it and be open to the change that comes with accepting the physical changes that come with calling on more of his powers. But if her changes are a sign of what is coming for the friends, will they even be human by the end of the battles to come?

Naomi's sacrifice frees the guardian of the island, and it allows Doug and Jim to access the crystal that embodies the pillar of thunder. But when a squelp that resembles Satoshin shows up, will their distraction mean they lose control and possession of the crystal? Will they be able to save the floating island and the Tribe of the Turtle?

Meanwhile, Satoshin is tricked by the other Squelp into imprisoning himself in a prison of ice. There; he meets Mel, who tells him that every day, her captors control more and more of her, and she fears she is becoming like them. Arussha attempts to see what is so special about Satorin, but touching him brings out the true self at the core of her being, and Acidulous must help her fight it back down. Just what is this Squelp and why is it so important?

Then, Jim is recovering from his injuries when he is contacted by Rodvel, who shares his memories of Uro and his life. Queen Frasinella, who seemed so pure and good, had ulterior motives for controlling Uro during his life. But can Jim find out the truth of what Uro and his brother Lord Boros were before they were split into separate beings by the Queen and what she was attempting to control?

This is a new volume in the series, and far from being the slipcovered soft-cover form of the earlier books, this volume has reverted into the usual softcover manga form, which was somewhat disappointing, because I liked the other books somewhat more. But here, I started to get the idea of what Uro might have been, when I put Uro and Boros side by side, you get a word very similar to OUROBOUROUS, the worm with no end. Did Queen Frasinella separate some elemental force into two beings in an attempt to control them both? I suspect that the next volume will make this clear, and makes me wonder if Queen Frasinella was as good as she is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, more changes are ahead for the rest of the warriors from the Blue Star (aka Earth). Naomi's transformation makes clear that the more power they call on from the totems that power them, the more physical changes that they can expect. But as Uro's power grows closer to taking over the world and destroying the pillars, can they manage to beat off his forces and free this world, and then the world of Vermonia? And does Vermonia and its Queen deserve to be freed? If she was playing around with forces that should have been left alone, I'd have a hard time summoning up sympathy for her.

This series continues to make me think, and to wonder. I am enjoying it, and the various ideas, many of which have resonances to other stories featuring various elemental forces of thea cosmos and the sacred beasts Byakko, Suzaku, Genbu and Seiryu, but which is refreshingly different. I recommend this book and this series, and remain interested in where it is going from here.

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