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Review: Bride of the Water God, Volumes 1-5

A village desperate to break a drought decides to sacrifice a beautiful maiden, Soah, to Habaek the Water God. Soah goes to her death expecting to meet a monster, but not only does Habaek save her life, he is only a little boy! Soah tries to settle into life in Habaek’s palace, but she doesn’t understand the many facets of palace intrigue, where all of the gods seem to be conspiaring against each other. She’s also torn by her feelings for the handsome, but mysterious Mui, a man in the palace. What Soah doesn’t realize is that Mui is Habaek’s true form!

Bride of the Water God, vol. 1-5
Mi-Kyung Yun
Ages 13+, Grades 7+
Dark Horse Comics
Volume 1: October 2007, ISBN 978-1-59307-849-2, 184 pages, $9.99
Volume 2: February 2008, ISBN 978-1-59307-883-6, 184 pages, $9.99
Volume 3: May 2009, ISBN 978-1-59582-305-2, 192 pages, $9.99
Volume 4: September 2009, ISBN 978-1-59582-378-6, 176 pages, $9.99
Volume 5: January 2010, ISBN 978-1-59582-445-5, 184 pages, $9.99

Yun’s manhwa is visually stunning. From the very first color pages of Soah dressed in her red wedding gown in preparation for her sacrifice, readers will be amazed by the level of detail and beauty in this series. No panel is unadorned; no bit of clothing left plain; no building neglected. There are sumptuous color pages and stunning full-page spreads. The women are gorgeous and the men are handsome, all with a slightly sharp edge to their profiles to alert readers to their devious natures. Unfortunately, Yun is not quite as successful at drawing emotion as she is at drawing figures. Her characters all seem slightly flat, as if they were merely puppets.

But the main problem is with Yun’s storytelling. Her dialogue is overblown, as if she was trying too hard to make it sound regal. The text bubbles can be tricky to pin to a specific character, so as the story meanders along, readers begin to get confused about who characters are and why they are acting a certain way. Yun skips around in time, so it can be hard to tell exactly when events are taking place. Character development is at a minimum. I could never believe that anyone really had any feelings for anyone else, whether hatred or romance. And Soah must be the biggest idiot in the world to not realize by volume five that Habaek and Mui are the same person–especially when at least one character told her so! Other characters are dropped in randomly, without any real reason, adding to the confusion.

Dark Horse’s production is as visually beautiful as Yun’s art. I do wish that they had added some translation notes, however. Knowing who the various gods and goddesses and the folklore behind the tale would have made the series a little easier to follow. This story has fans, both in the United States and Korea, so the problems with Yun’s storytelling abilities are obviously not insurmountable. However, I would say that this is an optional purchase. Recommend it to high school girls who like florid romances and period costumes.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Dark Horse Comics.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


  1. Katherine Dacey says:

    Snow, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment! “Bride of the Water God” is visually arresting, but kind of maddening. The characters’ behavior makes very little sense, and, as you point out, the dialogue does little to convey a sense of who the characters are. After five volumes, I’ve officially thrown in the towel on this one!

  2. Thanks Kate! I do think it says something, though, that we were both willing to give it FIVE volumes before giving up. I’ve got plenty of titles I’ve given up on after one volume or less!

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