In the Kingdom of Kohka, Princess Yona, daughter of the kind-hearted King Il, lives a life of luxury. As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Yona has everything she could ever want: beautiful clothes, jewels, a flower garden… everything except her father’s approval to marry her older cousin, Su-won, whom she has adored since childhood. Yona has grown up with Hak, her guard, and theirs is a sibling-like relationship with plenty of teasing, whereas Yona has always idealized her encounters with Su-won, wishing he would see her as more than a child.
At her birthday celebration, Yona is both nervous and excited to see Su-won after so many years. As a gift, Su-won gives Yona an ornamental hairpin and calls her bright red hair, a feature Yona is self-conscious about, “the color of dawn.” This tender moment makes the harsh reality of the events that follow even more shocking to Yona and the reader. In hopes of convincing her father that she should be with Su-won, Yona walks into his room just in time to see Su-won, covered by the darkness of shadow, stabbing her father to death.
Appearing from the shadows, covered in King Il’s blood, Su-won greets Princess Yona as if nothing has happened. Elsewhere in the castle, as blood drips down Su-won’s sword and Yona is frozen in shock, Hak contemplates his relationship with Yona and Su-won, wishing the two of them to be happy together. Meanwhile, Su-won explains that years ago, his father—the eldest brother and most fit for the role of king—was passed over and the title was given to Yona’s father instead. Su-won believes that King Il killed his father after being crowned, an event which has set Su-won on a path of revenge since childhood. Sworn to protect Yona, Hak intervenes and, with the kingdom in upheaval, Yona and Hak flee for Hak’s homeland.
Yona of the Dawn, vol. 1 sets up the story with enough background information, action, and a bit of romance to keep readers invested and eager to continue the series; flashbacks are utilized effectively to provide context and enhance drama. One of the strong points of this series is its beautiful and expressive art with detailed settings and ornate clothing that provide a sense of place and time. Yona of the Dawn, vol. 1 is a strong opener to a series that has already been made popular through its anime adaptation (available on Crunchyroll), and it will make a solid addition to all teen manga collections. Pair with Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yuugi.
Yona of the Dawn, vol. 1
by Mizuho Kusangai
Publisher Age Rating: T