When you go to the publisher’s website five weeks after publication and find that a title is ‘out of stock’, it probably means that this review is unnecessary. Lots of you have found the book, and then encouraged your family, friends, neighbours and anybody else you meet to go buy it and read it. Who am I to disagree with this plan? But now, I will simply say – the e-reader version is still available. And maybe your library will have a copy (somewhere in the system). But with the second book in the series due out in July, – Get it and Read it.
Shikanoko is an unlucky lad. His mother dies when he is young, his father is killed before he is old enough to take over the estate, so his uncle attempts to murder him in order to claim his land. His luck turns when a dear breaks his fall and he is found by a hermit and nursed back to health. At the same time, Shikanoko begins his training as a sorcerer, unwillingly. Circumstances continue to conspire against him and somehow he is always in the wrong place and the wrong time and everybody is pushing him to study, train and gain more and more magical power. Meanwhile, another powerful family from the islands has murdered the true emperor and is hunting down the heir to the throne. The pieces are in position for a civil war, but what part will Shikanoko play in the drama?
This book is filled with extraordinary characters, some based in Japanese mythology. The whole conception, birth/hatching, and rearing of the Spider Children is simply incredible. And my heart simply goes out to Aki, who was certain of her future until during a palace coup she is thrust into the guardianship of the true Emperor (at six years old). She falls in love with Shikanoko (who wouldn’t?), but her duty forces her to leave him. Then there is Hina – the survivor.
Readers who are familiar with her Tales of the Otori will be familiar with setting and style, but this time Hearn is much more comfortable dealing with magic as well as adventure. In the previous series, magic almost seemed a plot device to get out of a tricky situation. Here magic, spiritual power and the like are integral to the story and simply work beautifully.
Now I just have to wait until July.