Author: K.H. Koehler
Publisher: TOKUSATSU PRESS
Genre: YA (I think?)/ supernatural thriller
Rating: 4 roars
When the first Kaiju—huge, Asian monsters (think anime/manga monsters)—rise from the sea and destroy part of the US, Kevin is one of the few survivors from his city. He moves across the States from San Francisco New York to live with his well-meaning father, far from the chaos of his past—or so he thinks. On his first day of school Kevin makes friends—and enemies. Before he can sort out his new life, the Kaiju strike once more. This time, though, a strange new power awakes in Kevin. Can he save his new friends, his home, and most importantly, himself?
Raiju is a unique novel in form, if not story. Though the story is a pretty basic defeat-the-monster-with-surprise-supernatural-powers plot, Koehler bases is on an interesting mythology. She uses a fun cast of characters and doesn’t hold back on the violence and gore. The story starts at the end, literally, and spirals back to the beginning pretty quickly.
I like Kevin—he’s tortured enough to be cool, although he does lapse into a little bit of self-pity melodrama every once in a while. He has a strong motivation to destroy the monsters that threaten New York. When he meets Aimi, his motivation leaps. Aimi’s friends are a bunch of kids you’d see if you did a google search on ‘Japanese goth fashions’ (or, just flipped through any of the latest anime magazines on the bookstore shelves). Her protector and best friend Snowman made me think of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, if Seph dressed in white. The bizarre group of friends play in a successful goth-rock band, and it’s during a concert that a Kami attacks. During the attack, Kevin’s hands start glowing and he pulls a flaming sword out of nowhere, and summons a lion-like Kaiju, named…Raiju. I got the two names confused for quite a while. Kevin saves the day, and launches on a quest to find out just who and what he is. He consults an old neighbor who figuratively reeks of Mr. Miyagi vibes and discovers he is one of the few individuals who can control one of the Kaiju. I won’t go into the whole mythology, because it is fun to read, but there are good monsters and bad monsters and they both want to fight, yadda, yadda, you can pretty much guess at the rest. Turns out, Aimi, his best buddy girl crush, has a dark secret, and once he figures it out, poor underdog Kevin has a real problem on his hands.
Raiju is a fun book. It’s not very long, and Koehler has a smooth, fluid, fun voice. I enjoyed the raw emotional tones, and the characters were all very well developed and three-dimensional. I thought Snowman’s ‘secret’ was completely unexpected and hilarious. Even if you’re not a fan of anime-turned-prose, read Raiju just for the fact that it’s a fantastically written speculative fiction novel with characters that come to life on the pages…well, computer screen.