Rekka no Chigiri (烈火の契り) by Shuu Kaori (or Kaori Shu), illustrated by Aya is…well, my first impression from reading the summary would have been a BL version of Lost, the TV series. Unfortunately, for me at least, it’s not. That does not mean that it’s not a good read but it isn’t so great either.
Aya did an awesome job with the insert illustrations as always. Ever single piece of them are drop dead gorgeous. It’s kinda obvious I bought this book for her so I should just shut up about the art now. :X
A real estate agency in Tokyo was planning to develop Kamiki Island, an abandoned island in Okinawa, into a resort. Thus, administration dispatched a team of five to conduct research at the island. Our hero, Oosato Itsuki was part of the team of surveyors even though he highly objected the development plan.
Eighteen years ago, his father brought him to the island where he spent his summer with a local boy, Takara Kouji. Once they reached the island, Itsuki was surprised to find Kouji there, acting as their guide. Adult Kouji was nothing like how he remember. Aside from sexual harassments by Kouji which Itsuki thoroughly welcomed and enjoyed, our hero faced mysteries of his past and sudden death in the team.
At first I thought this book would focus on the mystery and maybe some survival-risque elements, like Battle Royale? It didn’t really take much to figure out who’s about to die or who the murderer was. The author dropped very obvious hints that you just can’t miss.
Personally, I find one of the cons of the story to be the characters. Main characters weren’t that memorable and I didn’t really feel any emotional attachments to them. Usually when I read a book, I’d root for them when they’re in conflict, feel elated when they’re happy and get pissed when antagonist were antagonising them. Well, Rekka no Chigiri just didn’t really cut it.
One of the main problem probably was because there really wasn’t any conflict against the main character, Itsuki.
Itsuki felt more like a middleman of sorts and pretty much useless when it came to driving the plot. He’s pretty pleasant, got along with the youngest and oldest of the team, didn’t cause much conflict. Overall boring character.
Then we have Kouji, who’s the instigator of the plot and one who gave us all the nice eye candy in the book. He would throw out mysteries onto Itsuki (and our) face, dangle pieces of information for the rest of the book and do the big reveal at the end all at once. He tended to annoy and provoke other characters in the book with a grin on his face but he had his serious side. He wasn’t ashamed of doing naughty things with Itsuki in the island’s holy place but got extremely pissed when someone disrespected it. Thus, I guess we can say he’s complex, or plain bipolar.
Introducing the team, first we have Sone Hiroto. Sone was a young elite employee who had tons of achievement under his belt. He also had an extremely large stick up his ass and his holier-than-thou attitude didn’t earn him brownie points from the team. Unfortunately, he’s the unofficial leader of the team because it was his proposal to develop the island. He had a tendency to bully everybody in the team with his need to assert authority. However, Kouji knocked him down a few notch several times.
Next up, Sone’s biggest rival when it came to capability but still lost out during the latest pitch, Kuroi Atsushi. Competent as he may be, he’s always a step behind Sone. Not to mention a drama queen whose attitude was slightly better than his rival’s. Both of them fight a lot and it’s up to the rest of the team to break them up.
Hisano Yuuhei’s the oldest member of the team and the designated team leader whose job was to be the mediator between Sone and Kuroi. Itsuki’s impression of Hisano was that he did not stand out much. But on the island, it appeared that Hisano had a slight personality change and Itsuki’s learning a lot more about Hisano. Sone liked to provoke Hisano because even though the latter’s his senior, younger employees like Sone outranked him in the office.
Lastly, we have Oozawa Shuuji who was Itsuki’s junior. If there’s one character I felt pity for, it would be Oozawa. Sone treated him like a slave, making him carry his luggage or water bottles. He never stood up for himself and gave Sone free reign to push him around.
There are several sub-plots going on that needed to be solved:
1. Death of a character and finding out who’s the mystery killer.
2. Itsuki’s past and how it’s related to Kouji.
3. Itsuki’s father’s past and again, how it’s related to Kouji.
Talking about point number one, I did say it’s pretty obvious who’s going to die first. Anybody who’s reading or read the book will notice the murderer right away after he dies. Frankly, this sub-plot does not have much to do with Kouji nor Itsuki…not too much anyway.
Then, Itsuki and Kouji’s past. When they were both ten years old, they unknowingly bonded through blood. Licking blood from wounds can spark some surprising thing. Somehow, this was the set up for Kouji to harass Itsuki on the island eighteen years later when they reunited once again, saying that they were fated to be. Obviously since Kouji’s local, he did not support the development of the island, so they kept their relationship or the fact that they knew each other from the rest of the team.
And point number three should probably be the main plot. Revelation of Itsuki’s father’s past. Itsuki’s father passed away from cancer when Itsuki was still in University. His wife passed away long ago, thus he brought Itsuki up all alone. The two of them were rather close.
Huge spoilers ahead:
Itsuki’s father was from Kamiki Island. Due to the fact that he married someone who wasn’t from the island, he was cast aside and exiled from his birth place.
There’s a couple of local legends that’s kinda linked together. One was about English pirates scattering treasures all over Okinawa’s islands while they evade taxes and what not. Then, the “next world”, a place where the deceased crossed over when they passed away. In Kamiki Island, there’s a keeper who was tasked with the job of protecting those secret hiding places. Nobody knew who the keeper was except for his predecessor and the person taking up the mantle after him.
Funny rules about being a keeper was that you can never copulate with someone outside the island and with the opposite sex. Seriously, I don’t even know how’s that supposed to guard the secret. Lucky for them, they can find a tsugai, their fated pair to spend the rest of their lives with. Had to be the same gender, though.
Itsuki’s father was a keeper but obviously he broke the rules when he married Itsuki’s mother and had to leave the island. Before he passed away, he elected Kouji to be the next keeper. And guess who’s his tsugai? :D
Well, not going to reveal more of the story (Kouji can be a rather surprising character), I’ll mention what I do like about the book. For once, I can safely say I did not laugh while reading the deflowering part. I actually liked how straightforward the description was, and how it got right down to dirty talk. No weird adjectives for added humour, too.
Overall, I guess, if you minus the parts where Kouji and Itsuki’s making out, it would definitely make a bad mystery novel. But hey, just like reading fanfiction, the porn does make up for everything else. The first(and only murder, I am sad there isn’t more blood) only happens in the middle of the book. Even so, I did not feel one bit remorseful for the victim. My heart went out to the murderer instead.