Book Review | Kingdom Hearts: The Novel by Tomoco Kanemaki
This review will contain spoilers for the video game, manga, and light novel series. While the light novel may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
We start our journey on Destiny Islands, home to our main character Sora along with his friends Riku and Kairi. All three spend their days out on the beach, romping about with their fellow islanders and dreaming of worlds that could lie beyond their little island home. Most of their dreams of other worlds are stemmed from Kairi, who mysteriously arrived on Destiny Islands from another world she barely remembers years prior to the start of the story.
To achieve their dream of travel and adventure, the three work together to build a raft they soon plan to send off into the ocean. However, overnight, a storm rages across the island before they can achieve this goal. Sora wakes up to the storm and rushes out to see if he can save what he and his friends have built together.
On the way to the raft, he finds that Riku is already out in the storm along with these little ant-like creatures. Riku tells Sora that this is their chance to see other worlds and not fear the darkness. Riku reaches out to Sora, and Sora rushes to meet Riku. They are both enveloped by the darkness, only for Sora to be left standing alone, but now with a keyblade in hand.
Knowing Riku is safe, Sora seeks out Kairi. He ends up finding her in the cave they played in as a child. She seems to be in a daze, staring at a door at the end of the cave. When he calls out to her, she turns slowly to face him, calls out his name, which triggers the door to open. A rush of air throws Kairi into him, where she then disappears.
The darkness then manifests a large monstrous being, humanoid in shape that Sora quickly destroys using the key as a sword. The moment he defeats the beast, his world is swallowed in darkness, and he is thrown out to Traverse Town – a world for those who are lost and have lost their worlds. He meets Cid, Leon, their team, and Goofy and Donald. All aim to stop the Heartless, the ant-like creatures, and the beast Sora defeated in his world, save the missing worlds, and stop the spread of darkness. All the while, Sora longs to find his lost friends, and Goofy and Donald look out for King Mickey.
I liked the light novel a ton more than I did the manga version, which was a wonderful surprise. I really liked the formatting of the travels better as there was much more meat to each world than there was in the manga – we also get to see some worlds we didn’t get to see in the manga. In the manga, the format for each world was simply:
- Sora, Donald, and Goofy go to world and meet characters
- They meet the villian
- They beat the villian
It became boring very quickly, while in the light novel, we get a lot more dialogue and more descriptions of the scenes and fights between going to the world and fighting the big bad of the said world. It was refreshing and such a nice change of pace.
It was also nice to get some more internal characterization for all the characters, as I felt that was lacking in the manga variant. For example, we got much more internal conflict between the main trio of Donald, Goofy, and Sora. Seeing their thoughts in more detail really helped shape all of the different relationships and dynamics.
It is not well-written. That is not to say that it is grammatically unsound, but it feels like it was written for a much younger audience. That may not be a negative for some readers depending on their age, but for me, it felt stilted and more simple than I would have liked. Of course, I recognize this series was not made for my current age group, but for younger me who initially got into the franchise. However, I am sure there are plenty of fans in my age group now who may not have heard of the light novel or the manga versions and might be interested in checking this out. So, I want to be honest; this is definitely written for a younger crowd.
Also, while I feel this version was more dynamic than in the manga, it is a pretty close one-for-one compared to the game, which makes it feel a bit stale at times. Granted, for how short the light novel is, there probably wasn’t much room for exploration or more flex for the story. They had to fit in as much of the game as they could, and straying from the base story would have probably increased the size of the novel by a good chunk. However, even considering that part of the reason I was excited to explore the manga and light novel versions was to access lore from the Kingdom Hearts world, I might not have been able to get through the games. So, ultimately, I feel like this was a missed opportunity to flesh out the franchise a bit more.
Ultimately, I liked this much more than I did the manga, which is great. However, I still found it lackluster. It didn’t really add anything to the existing world of Kingdom Hearts, which is disappointing, but it didn’t mess anything up either. All-in-all, I suppose the best I can say is that it is inoffensive. However, as I suspected from my manga review, I did enjoy the light novel more, so I will be continuing this series through the light novels. Fingers crossed, we get a bit more from future iterations than this one.
Have you read this light novel? Have you played the games? Let me know what you think of them and if you agree with my opinions in the comments below.