Sisters Kamikuu and Namima are inseparable as little girls, so it’s a shock when one day they are forcibly separated. Kamikuu, the older sister, stands for light and will be trained to be the isolated island’s new Oracle, separated from the rest of the tribe, her only contact with Namima being a few words when Namima delivers her basket of food for the day. One day, the teen Namima is informed that she will be the servant of darkness and guard the cave where the dead are stored, as is ever the fate of the sister of the Oracle. This, she thinks, is the worst fate possible. Little does she know that worse awaits when her lover betrays her.
Namima narrates this story, which interweaves with the story of Izanami, the Goddess of the Underworld, who likewise had a faithless lover, Izanaki. Readers who know Japanese mythology will recognize those names; this book is one of the ‘Myths’ series put out by Canongate wherein famous writers retell the old stories. Izanami and Izanaki are part of an ancient creation myth as the parents of the islands of Japan. When Izanami died, Izanaki trapped her in the underworld and went about impregnating mortal women, who Izanami then killed. The moral of The Goddess Chronicle seems to be that males, whether they be god or mortal, are tricky beings only after one thing and women are destined to die because of them.
The book is somewhat dry but well written. My problem with it is that it seemed a bit simplistic: women die because of men. I can see that being true in the age when the myth arose; childbirth was dangerous and frequent; men ruled and took what they wanted. But to make that the point of a book today seems dated; it’s like a feminist book from the 1970s where the women were all good and the men all bad (and if a woman was bad, it was because a man caused them to be). Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and found myself caught up in Namima’s story, rooting for something bad to happen to her erstwhile lover.