Yona of the Dawn Vol. 1 TP
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 3, 2016
Price: $9.99
Creator: Mizuho Kusanagi
Format: 208 pgs., Black & White, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8781-3
Age Rating: 13+
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

It's always a very hard feeling when something that you've been looking forward to reading ends up not being quite what you wanted.  This is sadly the case for Yona of the Dawn Vol. 1.

Yona is the daughter and only child of the King of Kohka, making her a princess that has been doted on by her father and an army of servants since she could walk.  A highly sought-after young woman, Yona really only has eyes for her cousin Su-Won who refuses to see her as a woman due to their relationship from growing up together.  On the night of her sixteenth birthday, though, her entire world changes as she witnesses Su-Won murdering her father in an attempt to take control of the kingdom.  Now Yona is on the run with only her bodyguard and childhood friend, Hak, to protect her.

It's not fair to say that I didn't enjoy this volume of manga but I do have to say that I have one very large piece of praise and one large piece of criticism.

On the plus side, this volume does an amazing job of establishing the characters and their relationships to each other.  Throughout the first couple of chapters, panel after panel is dedicated to establishing just how close these three characters were while they were growing up.  The scene in which they all catch a cold after playing in the snow together is priceless.  So when Su-Won runs the king through with a sword, it has some pretty dramatic impact that you feel right away.

The problem that I found with this volume though is that Yona is such a useless heroine at the moment. In 2014 an anime adaptation of this series was released and within only a couple of episodes, the series had foreshadowed more than enough to establish that while Yona might be an annoying and useless little girl now, she will eventually grow into a strong and capable woman. There is absolutely none of that here, which for the moment, leaves Yona as yet another cardboard cutout heroine who always needs to be saved or protected.

The only other problem that I ran into with this first volume is the pacing.  This is not a book that you will either not be able to or have the desire to read slowly. This is something that can be easily read within half an hour.

Overall, Yona of the Dawn Vol. 1 is just good enough to warrant a passing grade but readers who are looking for a strong female lead should be prepared to get comfortable because it could possibly take awhile before Yona gets there.

--L.B. Bryant