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Literature / The Book of Heroes

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Then let us call it by a different name. The good of the Hero shall be called the 'hero' as you have always thought of it. And the dark side of the Hero, that which is evil, shall be called The King in Yellow''.
-The Archdevout

A 2009 novel by Miyuki Miyabe.

Yuriko Morisaki is an Ordinary Elementary School Student. Life is normal, and she is content, until the day her world is thrown into turmoil. Her brother, Hiroki, brings a knife to school and kills a classmate before fleeing the scene and seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth. Yuriko is frightened, confused, and helpless to do anything about it. That is, until she meets Aju, a talking dictionary. Aju leads her to a room full of ancient books, who advise her to travel to the Nameless Land in search of her brother who has been possessed by a mysterious entity known as "The Hero", or "The King in Yellow". After meeting with the Nameless Devout and gaining the powers of the "Allcaste", she sets off in search of her brother, but she is warned that what she finds at the end of her journey may not be what she hopes for....


This Book Features Examples of:

  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Arguably, the nameless devout. They're people who committed the great sin of trying to 'live a story' (read: achieve their goals without taking the consequences into account), and are subsequently Mind Raped into bland, identical beings with no free will, whose only purpose is to turn the wheels of the cosmic story (and ensure the Big Bad doesn't escape) for the rest of eternity.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Books in this story are Tsukumogami- inanimate objects which come to life after about a century (it apparently carries over to newer copies of old books), and as such are able to offer advice, and even directly assist, Yuriko.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Hero/The King in Yellow is a living archetype. It's The Hero and the Big Bad at the same time. Which side is dominant at any given time appears to be cyclic.
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  • Asshole Victim: The boys Hiroki attacked.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Hiroki commited murder, which is why he is punished so severely, but the point is made that the kids he lashed out against weren't exactly shining examples of human decency.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The villain of this story is the King in Yellow. Savvy readers know exactly what to expect.
  • Crapsack World: The fictional world of the Haetlands- a region which is almost perpetually at war, and is so tiny it can be covered by someone's fingertip on a globe). People being devoured and/or turning into monsters is a common occurrence.
  • Cursed with Awesome: People in the Haetlands who have survived a zombie attack gain superpowers... but the mutation has the unfortunate side effect of killing them inside of two years. Some of the victims are children.
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  • Determinator: Come hell or high water, Yuriko will rescue her brother. You can take your criticisms about her age and/or gender and shove 'em.
  • Driven to Suicide: Barely averted with Hiroki's girlfriend Michiru. It becomes a major plot point.
  • Eldritch Location: The Nameless Land. It's entirely colorless and populated by emotionless Hive Mind clones. Clones which serve 'penance' by releasing nascent stories into the world, and returning ones that have been used up to the melting pot. That's right: the Nameless Land is the birthplace of Tropes.
  • Empty Shell: The nameless devout. See A Fate Worse Than Death. Averted, to some extent, with Sky a.k.a. Hiroki.
  • For Want of a Nail: Most of the events in the book could have been avoided if Hiroki had just come clean about the bullying going on in his school, instead of trying to do everything himself.
  • Historical Domain Character: It's implied that the Wolf Yuriko meets at the end is none other than Nelson Mandela.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When a character suggests that Yuriko's world itself might have been written ('woven') by someone else, she considers the idea for a moment, but then brushes it off, probably as too horrifying.
  • Meaningful Name: It's explained that they call the evil side of the Hero "The King in Yellow" after the book of the same name, which was the closest our world had ever come to producing a fully accurate depiction of the utter madness of the Hero's evil. This is also used to explain the Brown Note effects of the play within the book. Also, Katarhar Abbey is full of sick and dying people.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies in the Haetlands are corpses possessed by vengeful spirits. Also, they can clone themselves from severed body parts.
  • Pride: Stated outright to be the reason for Hiroki's downfall and subsequent transformation into a nameless devout.
  • Sequel Hook: Yuriko becomes a Wolf herself at the end of the book, meaning she'll still be able to seek the imprisonment of the Hero.
  • Shout-Out: One has to wonder if The Haetlands Chronicles is not a deliberate spoof of A Song of Ice and Fire because of the general grimdark tone as well as sharing some important plot points with it (namely, zombies, the winter, a child king and a disabled/superpowered boy). Also, on a somewhat meta level, an important character in The Haetlands Chronicles is a Wolf. The Book of Heroes came out before Martin's books were made into a TV series, but the Japanese translations of the books have apparently existed.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Dmitri, the Man of Ash, thinks this way. Makes sense, considering he's from a (fictional) traditional sword-and-sorcery world, set sometime in the Middle Ages. It's also at least possible that the reason for such attitudes towards women in his world is because of Elem, who is responsible for unleashing the King in Yellow and therefore may be kind of an Eve archetype.
  • Tomato Surprise: Sky is Hiroki Morisaki's remaining shreds of humanity.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Elem, which is indirectly responsible for pretty much everything that happens in the story on account of being a conduit to the King in Yellow.