If you like fantasy, you'll love this. But even if you don't -I think you could still love it. It's so...human. So interesting and poignant. How do you write a story about a young boy who is dealing with his parents' divorce? He wants to change his fate. How do you solve that? This story does an incredibly good and satisfying job.
Brave Story was written by super famous, Japanese author Miyuki Miyabe. She is known as the "Queen of Crime Fiction" because she traditionally writes mystery/suspence books for grown-ups. Brave Story was her first foray into youth literature. And it's just fantastic. I can't say that enough. It's well over 800 pages and I didn't want it to end.
Brave Story was translated beautifully into English by Alexander O. Smith through Haikasoru, an imprint of Viz Media. Smith also translated Miyabe's two subsequent youth books, Hero Story and Ico: Castle in the Mist (he owns a translation company called Kajiya Productions).
***note about the English edition: the line editors must have been asleep on the job or non-existent. There are so many editing mistakes. That was the only thing about this book that bothers me (well, that and what is up with the cover? It does grab your attention but it's not very accurate, especially if you look at the depictions of the other characters. There is no one-eyed cat person in the book. Anyway!). It annoys me that such a great story, translated so well, didn't get handled with the literary respect that it deserves. You know what I'm trying to say. I was sad to be distracted by silly editing mistakes while reading such an amazing story!!!) Okay, I'm done.***
(From Goodreads)Originally serialized in newspapers from 1999 - 2001, Brave Story was gathered into two, and then three volumes (one set was for older readers, the other was for younger kids). When released in America though, it was gathered into one hefty volume (the original, older youth audience version, I assume).
The Bravest Story Ever Told.
A young boy finds his destiny in a world of fantasy.
Young Wataru Mitani's life is a mess.
His father has abandoned him, and his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt.
Desperately he searches for some way to change his life, a way to alter his fate.
To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world.
Wataru's ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon's Bane, the key that will unlock the future.
Charity, bravery, faith, grace, and the power of darkness and light: these are the provinces of each gemstone.
Brought together, they have the immeasurable power to bring Wataru's family back together again.
((oh my gosh, the ending is SO GOOD))
Even though the main character is eleven, the book deals with some pretty hefty themes and you just get so immersed in the whole story. That is why I have featured it as a young adult book rather than a children's book. Also, it's pretty dang long (but mostly, it's here because it's deep).New Traveler, My Dreams & Wishes, and Wataru's Adventure), and a manga (Japanese comic) series which is NOT like the book at all and I do NOT recommend it (I started it because I loved the book, but had to stop because it is just a totally different story. Totally. Different).
There is also an anime movie, titled "Brave Story" (pictured above), which sadly, hasn't been released domestically -thus I haven't seen it yet. But from the clips I've seen (see below) it seems pretty darn accurate. ((There is apparently a fan-dubbed version, but I don't know how one would go about getting it [aside from watching some parts on YouTube]. Poo! But here's a version for US players! Subtitled. I'm so tempted to get it!))
EDIT (2/24/12): And here's a little video I made for the Brave Storynovel!