The story follows mainly on 16 year old Ha Jun who is assigned a mission to go after an Ak-ma, a demon that devoured the souls of men is their mission. Accompanying him on his journey with Yeong Su, a 20 year old soldier, Su Won, a 23 year old monk, Seong Min, a 26 year old knight and Windshine, a dark elf who has lived for over 500+ years and is tasked with recording the valiant acts of quest groups. The dark elf is a subtle metaphor for Black people and her treatment from the people shows it.
What’s interesting is that the opening chapter starts from his father’s point of view. There are also chapters written from the third person narrative of the ship’s captain, all the companions and Windshine. Ha Jun was a main character that I did not expect. He’s cowardly and naivety in the beginning but it gives him a growth in character throughout the book and how he changes around Windshine.
I think K-Pop fans, Lord of the Rings readers and even Dragon Age, Fable and Dark Souls gamers would love reading this book. There’s a lot of cultural and language references with Jeju, Korea and other parts of Asia e.g. 일본의날라/Ilbon-Nala or known as Japan’s Nara ) that I noticed when reading the book and as a gamer, there were parts of the book including the origin of Ha Jun’s sword that resonated with me as a gamer.
There’s a lot of potiental for a prequel into Windshine’s origins and other questions that also could be answered: Why did Windshine create Ha Jun’s sword? How did Ha Jun’s father get a hold of the sword in the first place? Monks seem as strong as Summoners, what is the origin of their story? Let’s hope Sullivan will write one in the near future. For now, there is also the sequel and the third book to dive into.
I talked to Todd Sullivan and for this book, he recommends the popular dish, Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개). It’s a popular kimchi-like stew from Korea that usually has tofu, chilli powder, gochujang, optional pork or seafood and of course kimchi. but it differs depending on the chef in my opinion. Regardless, it’s still considered one of the beginner spicy foods to try in Korean cuisine even to this day and today’s recipe has been shared by Sylvia of Spain vs Korea Recipes.
- 1 (12 oz) can Original Spam, chopped into 1/2″ dice
- 3 strips pork belly, cut into 1″ pieces
- 2.5 litres (10.5 cups) of water
- 1/4 cup small dried anchovies (update: if using the 2-3″ type, remove dried innards and heads, about 6-8 which is the best option)
- 1/2 of a 3.6 lb tub of kimchi (about 1.75 lbs of kimchi), roughly chopped
- 1/2+ cup kimchi brine (the more the better!)
- 1 large sweet potato (not yam), peeled and chopped into 1″ dice (about 2 cups)
- 1lb firm tofu, drained, chopped into 1″ dice
- 1 cup boiling water
- Steamed white rice on the side
- Sliced green onion, seasoned roasted seaweed squares, soy sauce, sesame oil, gochujang, doenjang, etc. to garnish
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Add Spam and/or pork belly, and fry until it starts to get color on it and caramelize, about 6-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add boiling water to rinse the tofu in a separate container, set aside. This gives it a cleaner flavour.
- Once the meat has caramelized, drain the rendered fat. Place pot back onto now high heat, and add water, anchovies, kimchi, brine, and sweet potato to the meat. Bring to a boil, and reduce by at least 1/3, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After it has reduced by at least 1/3, the stew should taste strongly of kimchi and the sweet potato should be tender, add more brine if needed.
- Drain water from tofu, then add to the pot, and give a gentle stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer another 2-3 minutes, until the tofu has warmed through. Serve with bowls of steamed white rice and garnishes. Can be kept in the fridge for about 4 days.