Review: The Twelve by Cindy Lin

I always like to keep my options open so after completing a contemporary-book short marathon, it's understandable that I missed stumbling upon something magical. With that in mind, I figured that a dose of a good middle-grade book would do me good, so I took a long look at my shelves and eventually ended up picking The Twelve by Cindy Lin. Needless to say, my craving for an adventurous read is now fully fulfilled, thanks to OwlCrate Jr for including this book in their past box.

The Twelve follows the story of a 12-year-old Usagi who lives in the woods with her younger sister Uma and her best friend Tora. As a Wood Rabit herself, Usagi has the ability to not only soar over treetops in a giant leap but also to hear every sound even the tiniest one from a mile away. Unlike her, Uma is a Horse Girl. Her zodiac gift allows her to build a fire out of nothing and run in spirit speed. Together, the three of them try to hide their zodiac powers as those who have them will be hunted by the wicked Dragonlord and his guards.

When a kid with zodiac powers is accidentally exposed in front of the guards, Uma being Uma tries to rescue him by exposing her own gift in front of them. As the result, she and Tora are now captured, leaving the desperate Usagi alone and mad. In an attempt of locating them, she is found by three mysterious younglings called Saru, Inu, and Nezu who claim themselves as the Heirs. Later on, they bring Usagi to Mount Jade in order to learn how to fight as the Dragonlord's palace is full of guards and strikers. 

When I first picked up this book, I admittedly made a judgment based on its cover: jam-packed with actions was my initial expectation followed by magical folklore or a more detailed Chinese old story. Though The Twelve actually had a very intriguing premise, I was a little disheartened when I was confronted by a pretty slow pace and a slight mention of action. Thankfully, it got faster as the story went onward and the narrative sure got more compelling. I even considered the last few chapters to be badass.

I think it's important to point out how lovely the writing style was. Every detail was described beautifully that I longed to see the woods, Mount Jade, and even the Dragonlord's palace. For me, Lin successfully captured the setting eloquently and the same went for the characters. I personally admired the brave Usagi including the childish side of hers. She was still a kid after all and inevitably mistakes were sometimes bound to happen. Though I didn't see much character development in this book, I was satisfied with the fact that the kids didn't act superior all the time.

Horangi the teacher was certainly someone to look up to. However, I was hoping that the first few lessons from her, despite the lack of relation with self-defense and attack moves, would lead Usagi to something big and unexpected. Apart from learning about patience and presumably the way you held your brush like you did your sword, I found a little to none correlation between the lessons and Usagi's fate, except that perhaps it was all planned out so Usagi wouldn't ace the trial in her very first attempts. It certainly made sense if we saw it that wayafter all it would be best if the skill progressed gradually right?

Overall, I enjoyed this book quite much. The Twelve turned out to be a fun adventure book with a heartwarming friendship and an awesome world-building. The fact that things got more and more complicated throughout the ending deserved another bonus point. Even when I had sort of guessed the big twist, it still felt as important when it did actually happen. With the last 100 pages being so badass and well packed with action, I was left wanting more of it.

Actual rating: 3.9