The Leopard Mask, the first installment of The Guin Saga, is a rather uninspiring tale of two twins (Remus and Rinda) whose kingdom has fallen to an evil army and who are now trying to stay alive among all of the ghouls, demons, and other nasties who live in the marches. They are saved by an amnesic warrior (Guin) who, for some unknown but intriguing reason, has an irremovable leopard mask fused to his face.
The writing style is only serviceable. I don’t know if this is due to the original Japanese text or to the English translation but it just doesn’t grab me. The perspectives change abruptly, the dialogue is stilted, and the omniscient narrator tells too much — sometimes in a tone that would be used to teach children.
The plot of The Leopard Mask is quick as it moves from action sequence to action sequence. But for all of the fighting, being captured, escaping, and yelling (“Guin, look out!” “Rinda, Rinda!” “Remus!” “Ahh!” “The door! They’re breaking down the door!” “Run!” “Guin, it’s coming this way!” “Run, quickly!” “Guin! Quickly! Are you okay?” “Arragh!”), my heart rate didn’t rise once.
There is little character development in The Leopard Mask. With their platinum hair and violet eyes, the twins seem more like a couple of manga characters than real humans, but I’m sure readers will get to know them better in future books. The masked warrior is somewhat compelling (or perhaps it’s the rippling muscles that have deluded me) and I would like to know what’s up with the leopard head, but I’m not about to read 125 more installments to find out.
I have a feeling that The Guin Saga might be more enjoyable in its manga format.
The Guin Saga — (1979-2008) The Guin Saga is in the process of being released in English in both hardback and paperback. Publisher: The Guin Saga is epic heroic fantasy in the same vein as Robert E. Howard’s Conan, the Barbarian. More than a hundred books strong and growing, the saga has sold more than twenty-five million copies in Japan. Vertical will publish the first five installments that comprise “The Marches Episode” arc. In a single day and night of fierce fighting, the Archduchy of Mongaul has overrun its elegant neighbor, Parros. The lost priest kindgom’s surviving royalty, the young twins Rinda and Remus, hide in a forest in the forbidding marches. There they are saved by a mysterious creature with a man’s body and a leopard’s head, who has emerged from a deep sleep and remembers only his name. Guin.