Mortibito: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi
This is the sequel to Mortibito: Guardian of the Spirit. In this book Balsa returns to her home of Kanbal where she had to flee as a young child to escape her father's murderers. She was saved by a friend of her father, who had to kill all of his own friends in order to keep Balsa alive. Now Balsa goes back to face her past and seek forgiveness from the spirit of her protector.
I loved this book so much. I did miss Tanda a lot, but the book is so well written and Balsa is a wonderful heroine. She is again paired with children as her companions, this time a brother and a sister. They don't have as big a role to play in the story as Changum did, but Balsa still gets the chance to show her gentler side around them.
I don't often read books with strong female characters because writer's tend to downplay the male characters in those books. This book shows how that should be handled. Balsa is a warrior seeking to make amends with her past. She is kind and caring but brave and protective. The men in the story are, I am thinking mostly of Tanda in this case, protective and take care of those in their care. More importantly, the characters are real and believable, which is what I want when I read books.
Balsa is one of my all time favorite heroines. My only regret with these books is that the manga, which is a continuation of the story, has not been translated to English and might never be. It leaves me with a strong desire to learn Japanese so I can find out what happens next.