I love it when authors return to an established universe; especially when they’re as detailed as Dawn of the Arcana, which was first published in 2009. Best of all, newcomers don’t really need to know any of the previous backstory in order to understand the storyline of The King’s Beast as this time author, Rei Toma's setting is in a new country which takes inspiration from ancient Chinese dynasties.
“In this world there are humans and beast-like Ajin,” and Rangetsu, who is an Ajin girl, has been assigned to serve as the fourth prince’s Beast Servant, his skilled bodyguard. However Rangetsu hides her gender and identity for two reasons: 1) Beast Servants are only ever males and 2) she’s there to avenge the murder of her twin brother, Sogetsu. She’s convinced that Prince Tenyou, the fourth prince, is responsible for her brother’s death. However, the prince doesn’t seem like the murdering type; he’s caring and empathetic. Thus Rangetsu bides her time in order to learn more about what exactly happened to her twin so many years ago while he too served as a Beast Servant in the service of the fourth prince.
I really enjoyed this dash of murder-mystery that’s nestled within the inner workings of the kingdom’s royal intrigue; it enhances what would otherwise be a standard fantastical plot. Like The King’s Beast’s predecessor, readers uncover more about the royal family’s dynamics along with bits of information which only serve to deepen the plot. Especially when it comes to Prince Tenyou, who’s made a nuisance of himself once before when he first tried to uncover Sogetsu’s killer.
I can’t help but compare the artwork in Dawn of the Arcana to that found in The King’s Beast. Rei Toma’s art in this latter work is a bit more refined. The character designs and setting all have a flowing, elegant feel to them and the dignified aesthetic carries over into the fluid fight scenes. Speaking of, I do have to say I’m impressed with Rangetsu’s fighting skills! This girl can definitely take care of herself and should be recognized as a strong female lead alongside others like Yona from Yona Of The Dawn and Shirayuki from Snow White With The Red Hair. Rangetsu’s notoriety in her kingdom has earned her the nickname “The High Commander” due to her physical strength, grace, and independence, and I do hope we get to learn more about her background. She’s acquired techniques which are supposedly only taught to male Ajin so her journey to where she is now needs some flashbacks! Needless to say, there’s a lot of backstory to unpack in future volumes and I’d also like to know more when it comes to Prince Tenyou’s personality. Right now he feels a little one dimensional, as it’s clear he cares for those who serve him and he wants to do what’s right by them regardless of what society thinks; however, that’s pretty much all we get in this first volume. I sincerely hope there’s some more insight as to why he’s matured into such a caring individual unlike his uppity and suave brothers.
As someone who has read Dawn of the Arcana, I do want to mention that, as with any series set in an already established world, there are some things which have been fully fleshed out in the previous work, which are only glazed over in its successor. Newcomers may find themselves wondering what exactly these “special powers” are that keep getting mentioned. Especially since only some Ajin can control them. Nothing is described in any great detail so understanding what the characters are talking about might leave you feeling a little hazy if you aren’t already familiar. Don’t fret though, near the end of the first volume there is a demonstration as to what at least one of the Ajin’s special powers consist of, so you do get a glimpse as to why Rangestu is such a special case. She has no powers at all yet she’s fulfilling the role of a Beast Servant. For this reason alone I would recommend reading Dawn of the Arcana first, but I don’t think that lack of depth should detour anyone from enjoying this series on its own. It’ll just add to the overall lore. As a whole, I loved the vibes emanating from The King’s Beast story and I’ll definitely continue reading this one!
Also, as an added bonus, fans of Toma’s other work, The Water Dragon's Bride, will be treated to a bonus chapter from that storyline. While it’s not relevant whatsoever to The King’s Beast, it’s a fun little extra!
Ajin boys who show signs of special abilities are conscripted to serve in the imperial palace as beast-servants—status symbols and shields for their royal masters, to be kept or discarded on a whim. When they were children, Rangetsu’s twin brother Sogetsu was ripped from her arms and sent to the palace to attend Prince Tenyou as a beast-servant, where he quickly fell victim to bloody dynastic intrigues. Now in a world that promises only bitterness, Rangetsu’s one hope at avenging her brother is to disguise herself as a man and find a way into the palace! Prince Tenyou is not what Rangetsu expected, and the political currents in the palace run deep and strange. Does Rangetsu have any chance of finding justice for her brother, or will she become just another Ajin casualty in the game of kings?Add to CartLearn More