Hitori is a story about a woman who is sold to Bishamon, by her idiot father, in order to win an upcoming battle that he ends up losing anyways. Bishamon, the god of war, trains the young woman, preparing her to be his Slayer. In the 8th century, roughly 80 years later, Bishamon sends his ward back to Japan to defend the lands from the evils that normal humans cannot handle themselves. This is where the story begins.
Hitori isn't her name, she gave up her name when her father disowned her. Hitori is a name given to her by the first decent person she meets. In the main series, 1300ish years later, she's known as Mai. What does the book compare to? That's a question I've been asking myself for days now and coming up short, but I will do my best.
It's full of action, like most manga/anime/comics. It's designed around a series of adventures that are tied together with a central idea, like a television series. It's full of mythological baddies, like any good fairy tale should. The best I can come up with is that "Hitori" is a cross of Lone Wolf and Cub and The Forbidden Kingdom with a dash of historical accuracy. I'm not saying it's super-duper historically accurate, but I tried. The 8th century is when Japan decided to start writing down their history. So, there's only so much accuracy I can give you.
It's a book wrapped in mythology, embracing history and filled with action, magic and the supernatural. A lot of times, like the CoM series, I'll take an exising idea and develop the idea so that the strange descriptive changes that are found in existing lit make a more cohesive, single idea. I'll use the Tengu for example, as it is not a spoiler to the story.
The Tengu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tengu) are an interesting, mythological species. I spent several months reading the lore on them and thought it seemed odd that they varied from being these birdlike creatures to something far more humanoid with long noses. So, I decided that the children would be the more bird-like variety, with arms for wings, and as they grow into adulthood more and more of those characteristics would fall away, leaving long nosed humanoids with wings on their backs.
Do you need to read the Chronicles of M to understand this? Absolutely not. Will this book help you to understand Mai in the CoM series, of course. It's a standalone book that is meant to expand the world the series lives in. So, do what the California Raisins say and check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyIHOTx7zxM