(Kono Hon wo Nusumu Mono wa)
by 深緑野分 (Nowaki Fukamidori)
Author: 深緑野分 (Nowaki Fukamidori)
Genre: fiction, fantasy, adventure, mystery, books, magic
Great for: Advanced (N1+)
Length: 340 pages
Amazon Japan (Kindle): この本を盗む者は
Bookwalker Japan: この本を盗む者は
English Summary (Translation by Japanese Talk Online)
“Ugh. I knew I shouldn’t have read it! This is why I hate books!”
High schooler Mifuyu’s great-grandad was a book collector. Her father is the caretaker of this library, the Mikurakan, but Mifuyu doesn’t like books at all. One day, Mifuyu goes to the Mikurakan instead of her father and finds a book has been stolen, and a note left behind.
“Whoever shall steal this book will be chased by flags of magical realism.”
This activates the book curse and the whole town is swallowed and transformed by a fictional world. If Mifuyu can’t catch the book thief then the town will never return to normal, and she is thrown into stories about gun-wielding detectives who challenge conspiracies, stories of giant silver beasts, and other strange worlds. Until finally even herself is transformed.
Why You Should Read この本を盗む者は (Kono Hon wo Nusumu Mono wa)
I picked up この本を盗む者は for two reasons, one because it was nominated for the 2021 Japan Booksellers’ Award (年本屋大賞), and two, because it’s about books!
There’s something warm and comforting about reading books about books. This book in particular is about someone jumping into books! So I was expecting something like the Pagemaster or これは学園ラブコメです (This is a High School Rom Com), which I also reviewed recently.
この本を盗む者は (Kono Hon wo Nusumu Mono wa) was what I expect and not what I expected. I thought that perhaps the protagonist, Mifuyu, would spend her whole time jumping from book to book chasing down the thief. But it was more like each chapter was a contained short story, where she jumped into a book and caught the thief, which lifted the curse, then left the book.
She’s also accompanied by a mysterious character who seems to know what’s going on but won’t actually explain anything. (Honestly, a really annoying troupe in literature.) This character, Shiro, was probably one of the weakest elements of the story. She was used mostly as a tool of convenience to get Mifuyu to do certain things.
The stories Mifuyu jumps into are unique to this novel which is good because you don’t know what to expect, but bad because they can get confusing. Each book covers a different genre and I found some of them to be easier to read than others. Especially the two fantasy stories. Things get a little strange and it’s hard to tell what’s happening in some scenes. But then again the different genres of tales within one novel is interesting and provides a good challenge for Japanese learners.
At the core though this novel is a fantastical mystery. There are small mysteries within each chapter that lead to an even bigger mystery by the end. Honestly the last third of the book has me a lot more invested than the earlier chapters and I really liked the conclusion.
Why Japanese Learners Should Read この本を盗む者は (Kono Hon wo Nusumu Mono wa)
This is a challenging book. It’s fun but challenging for a few reasons.
The first, as I mentioned, is the various stories within the main story. These can get a little surreal and it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on and where things are. I found that especially for the fantasy narratives it was hard to get my bearings at times. This might partially be because of how Japanese people write high fantasy is different from how English speakers write fantasy, so it the stories didn’t go the way I was expecting them to.
The second is the Japanese language itself. This novel uses a lot of JLPT N1+ kanji and vocabulary, and even makes up a few character/place names and terms.
It also likes to use more uncommon kanji. Such as in the blurb of the book, 書物の蒐集家 (しょもつのしゅうしゅうか) which means “book collector” but the author used 蒐集家 instead of 収集家.
With the diverse narratives there are also some diverse specializations of terminology related to shrines, curses and spells, machinery, guns and more. (They make sense in context!)
This is a great book for advanced readers who love books, especially fantasy, and want to try a new challenge!
It took me about a month to read this novel. It’s was pretty slow going, but I’m really glad I finished reading it!
I can see why it was nominated for an award, but I can also see why it came rank 10. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked the ending, but it was weak in terms of overarching themes.
You can read the first chapter (the whole chapter!) here on Bookwalker Japan!
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