Joy Kim

Librarian. Book Reviewer. Coffee Addict.

Kusakawa, Nari: Two Flowers for the Dragon, vol. 3

twoflowers3.jpgIn Two Flowers for the Dragon, Shakuya, the teenage princess of the Dragon Clan, finds herself in the uncomfortable situation of having not one but two fiancés. The cause of her predicament? The unexpected return of Lucien, her first fiancé, who was lost in a sandstorm five years earlier and presumed dead. Since both Lucien and Kuwan, her current fiancé, have legitimate claims, Shakuya’s mother decrees that her daughter’s flower-shaped betrothal tattoos will decide the matter; thanks to Shakuya’s magical bloodlines, the tattoos multiply to reflect her feelings for her suitors and will thus reveal whom she loves best. But love is hardly the only thing that Shakuya has on her mind. As her mother’s heir, she is responsible for protecting the oasis, and she must also learn to manage her sometimes inconvenient ability to transform into a dragon.Volume 3 sees Shakuya and her entourage, which includes both of her fiancés, visiting the Oasis of the Shade on official Dragon Clan business. The trip’s an opportunity for Shakuya to try to make sense of her confused feelings toward her suitors, but before long, an unexpected sandstorm leads to revelations regarding Lucien’s five missing years and Shakuya’s family.

Though I had never read this series before receiving this review copy, I had little difficulty following the story or figuring out the basic premise; the back cover copy and a recap in the first chapter were enough to orient me to the events to come. It probably also helped that the story being told here is not particularly original: a shojo love triangle is an all too familiar plot, and even the fantasy trappings of the desert setting, dragon transformation, and magical flowers tattoos don’t do much to set this one apart from the pack.

The fairly bland characterizations of the three leads also give this story a rather generic feel. Given that love stories often succeed or fail in grabbing my attention based on the appeal of their central players, this is something of a problem. Shakuya merely seems content to be pulled back and forth by her wavering attractions; despite her powers, she’s all too often in the position of being rescued by one boy or another. Meanwhile, neither Lucien nor Kuwan makes much of an impression either. Events in this volume offer glimpses at both suitors’ pasts, but the flashbacks aren’t enough to make a reader invested in either party.

There’s also never a sense during this volume that anything important is at stake. Though the characters are sent into various predicaments, they never seem to be in any genuine danger; the tone is just a little too lighthearted. The occasional swings of the narrative into very broad comedy do not help on this front.

Kusakawa’s art style is fairly typical of shojo manga. Her panels are mostly easy to follow, but occasionally it’s difficult to distinguish between two of the fair-haired characters.

Overall, this series shows some potential: it’s not actively bad so much as it’s not strikingly good. That could change if Kusakawa ever decides to do something more interesting with her fantasy setting and her heroine’s powers: for example, the central love triangle could be worth reading if it was set against the backdrop of a more complex adventure or mystery. But until that happens, Two Flowers for the Dragon is just a little too mediocre for me to recommend.

This volume also includes “Double Crown,” a bonus short story by Kusakawa about a princess and her body double.

Review copy provided by CMX/DC Comics.

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