We are very fortunate at Geek Vibes Nation for the opportunities we receive in conjunction with our relationships with our promotional partners.  One of those benefits is the chance to see books we might not normally see. That is definitely the case with Nie Jun’s Seekers of the Aweto, 1: The Hunt is On. In this beautifully hand illustrated book, Nie Jun tells a tale from his culture with reverence and in  a whimsical style created in a vibrant watercolor.

Seekers of the Aweto 1: Hunt is On

Seekers of the Aweto 1: The Hunt is On tells about a special plant with great healing properties. In the summer it appears as a plant but in the winter, it appears as a worm. This mysterious growth is coveted by nobles and merchants alike. Because of this, those who travel to obtain the Aweto are known as Seekers. However, there is an even rarer form of the growth. It is known as the Celestial Aweto and it is thought to grant its possessor with immortality. Although few if any have found one.

The story begins as a narrative told by a Master to his apprentice.  He starts his tale with a mother and her two sons. They are wandering the great Gobi desert in their search for the Aweto. The younger brother, named Xinyue had the power to control insects by hitting on his drum. The older brother is named Qiliu and he can fly like an insect with his wings. Their Mother is named Bu-Ren Niang and together they are Seekers of the Aweto. They go about following the Insects that Xinyue calls by his drum. In this case, the insects lead toward a village of the Matriarchal Sanamo tribe.

The Chadolos

Each village usually have their own version of the Chadolos. These are colorful earth deities and the aweto usually grows on their heads. Most villagers believed that the aweto contains the soul of its chadolo. As such, they were extremely protective of both their Chadolos and the Aweto. So naturally, they feared whenever the Seekers were at their proverbial doorsteps. Especially for the Sanamo who  believe that their Village Chadolos would soon have a child. That wondrous event would bring great prosperity to the village. But only if they protected the Aweto from the Seekers.

The problem they have is that they have been protecting their village a lot as of late. Thus they were running low on arrows. Regardless, they would do everything they could to protect their Chadolos. But as her sons prepare to go to the village, Bu-Ren Niang warns them to be aware of the Sanamo women. They cannot marry until after their first kill. Many will be looking for that opportunity. She tells them to go find the Aweto and when they return, she will have their dinner waiting. So her sons take to the air and approach the village.

In Search of the Aweto

The Village archers prepare to defend against the seekers. They shoot their arrows but come no where near the streaking Qiliu and his brother. It got only worse when Xinyue let loose his Thunder Mosquitoes and Wild Wasps upon them. They broke through the village lines but soon found themselves facing one of the Sanamo women their mother had spoken of. She wanted to get married and that would only happen if she killed one of these invaders. She failed. Well, maybe marriage is over rated? Since she was easily kicked away by Xinyue as they continued their advance.

Soon they located the Chadolos and it was over 100 years old. Xinyue found the Aweto and plucked it from the earth. This aroused the Chadolos who was heartbroken. Of course it also aroused the Sanamo’s who were upset that their Chadolos was assaulted. But while Qiliu fought against the Sanamo Soldiers, Xinyue found himself being pulled into the Chadolos where he found the baby Chadolos. It reached for Xinyue as if he was its parent. The young seeker wanted nothing to do with the child, but he couldn’t stand for it to cry either. He tried to leave it behind but he couldn’t. But nor could he let his brother or mother discover he had it. For they would surely take it from him.

The Pursuit of the Seekers

After the Seekers had left, the villagers were devastated. This would surely mean the end of their village. They sought the village elder for what to do. The young warrior girl who lead the defense asked that she be punished for allowing the seekers to take their Aweto and take the baby Chadolos. But the elder knew it was not her fault. They were just too weak after numerous confrontations to stop them. But there was still a chance. The seekers would need to sell their newly acquired Aweto, and there was only one place to do that. They would pursue them and retrieve the Aweto and the baby Chadolos. The Warrior girl pledged that she would make things right. So she went with two other warriors in pursuit of the seekers and their baby Chadolos.

Yumen

The mother and her sons soon arrived at Yumen, a border city where many merchants sell their goods. This is where the family will find a buyer for their Aweto. As they walked through the city, Xinyue was only interested in one thing. His brother always stole some candied plum suckers for him. It was almost a tradition. Qiliu didn’t disappoint him as he produced a handful of the suckers. He eagerly tasted his sweet treats as they walked by a trio of Qiemi Marauders who just so happened to be frogs. Mother warned her sons that the Qiemi had a fearsome reputation among Aweto Seekers. They should be avoided at all costs.

The Qiemi Marauders

As they continued to search for a good spot to sell their Aweto, the baby Chadolos escaped from Xinyue and ran off. Xinyue excused himself from his family telling them he had dropped something. Mother was not concerned as her youngest was always running here and there. He would be alright. But Qiliu was suspicious of where Xinyue was off to. The baby Chadolos in his new found freedom ran into a foot. But the foot belonged one of the Qiemi Marauders.

Xinyue started playing his drum to try to get lead to the Chadolos. He found the baby as the Qiemi pondered it. As he scooped it up, they questioned why a seeker would would even WANT a Chadolos. Perhaps he hoped to wait until it got bigger. Make more money that way. As the Marauders drew closer, Xinyue played his drum and drew more insects in. The Marauders, being frogs, couldn’t help but slurp up the insects. Especially since they were starving. What his drum also did was alert his family that he was in trouble.

The Celestial Aweto

As Xinyue attempted to escape, the frogs chased after him, capturing one of his legs with their sticky tongues. Just then Qiliu flew in, using his katana to cut through three of the frogs. Before one of them died, he exclaimed that he could die happily now that he had seen the Celestial Aweto, pointing toward Xinyue and the baby Chadolos. Xinyue had no idea what the Marauder was talking about. But Qiliu did. He asked his brother if he had known he had the Celestial Aweto. Of course, Xinyue did not. All he knew was he had a baby Chadolos and he wanted to take care of him. Qiliu approached his brother menacingly. He wanted the Celestial Aweto and he would kill anyone who touched it. That included Xinyue.

The Revenant

Just then, their mother appeared, asking Qiliu why he was chasing his brother. That is when the whole story comes out. The woman who was thought to be their mother was not. Her actual origins are not revealed but she IS revealed to be a revenant. And now that she realizes what she is, she will go away. Before she goes, she explains to Xinyue that she is not his birth mother, but he is instead the offspring of a good king in the land of (temp). While she will no longer be with him here, she will follow him from the heavens. Xinyue didn’t know what to think. This was the only family he had known. But that was not all of the surprises for the boy.

The Aftermath

Qiliu also told him they were not really brothers. They were just both Seekers after the same goal. And he wanted the Celestial Aweto. Xinyue didn’t believe his once brother, and he paid for it as Qiliu sliced his throat. Much to the dismay of the baby Chadolos. However, Qiliu had forgotten about the third Marauder. It started spraying a noxious fume at Qiliu and grabbed Xinyue’s body thinking he might find a use for the young royal. And while Qiliu tried to stop the Marauder, he was overcome by the gas the Marauder spread.

Xinyue found himself surrounded by a mist. He could see his brother…at least he USED to be his brother, as they talked about what they would do when they found the Aweto. The mist congealed again and he found himself face to face with numerous Chadolos. He begged forgiveness for taking from them when he was a Seeker. Then the mist surrounded him again and he found himself alone…and the Hunt continues.

Thoughts

As mentioned in the opening, Nie Jun’s Seekers of the Aweto, 1: The Hunt is On is a beautiful book. Hand painted in expressive and radiant watercolor, the printer made sure the textures of Nie June’s pages shone through. It’s tale is both beautiful and tragic as young Xinyue found nothing he had believed was true. The worst of it was when his once brother chose to kill him to obtain the Celestial Aweto. Now he is not sure what is true or if he is even in the land of the living. It’s ending leaves all of these questions unanswered and sets the stage for the next chapter in the tale. If you are a fan of oriental folk lore and elegant watercolor illustrations, Nie Juan’s Seekers of the Aweto, 1: The Hunt is On is for you. It is available where great books are sold.

 

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