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This fantasy manga follows the adventures of Inez, a young adolescent who wanders with her ancient grandfather through a lushly illustrated world of castles, pageantry, mystical wonders and age-old blood feuds. This landscape is seen through the wondering eyes of a girl on the verge of womanhood, who is also blessed with the unexplained ability to communicate with all species of animals. When Inez's gift becomes known to the local powers that be, she is pressed into reluctant service to attempt to lure a guardian dragon to protect the people as the delicately balanced peace with a malevolent race of demons hangs in the balance. With all of those elements in place, a reader could expect a compelling first installment in a fantasy epic of thrilling scope and spectacle. Alas, this is a slow-moving festival of androgynous figures whose genders are undiscernible unless they are referred to by name, and a lengthy backstory that tries but fails to provide depth and intrigue. Perhaps the story will take narrative flight in subsequent volumes, but it's slow going for both fantasy enthusiasts and manga fans in this first volume. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.