I don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd apprecia...moreI don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd appreciate it, because I have an appreciation for Asian culture and people, and swordsmanship; and honestly, something about a book with a woman holding a sword on the cover just pulls me in.
This book speaks to me of a writer who loves Japan, both modern and ancient. Someone who has taken the time to investigate and learn the culture, even to the deepest levels. You can't gain that kind of authenticity any other way.
Bein has taken an idea about three swords crafted by a legendary swordsmith and created a beautifully rich novel around them. While this is labeled as fantasy, the fantasy element is that the swords have animus and their very natures affect the destiny of those around them. Bein cleverly unfolds his story with a combination of past and present narrative. I was a bit worried I would find the historical parts dry, but I didn't. It was fascinating. I realized how little I know about samurai and how bushido affects everything about their lives. The insight into this period was crucial in this novel, because the swords are over nine hundred years old. Since I haven't even lived in cities that old, I can't even conceive of owning something that old! But for a Japanese person, not such a stretch. Now add in the fact that these swords have shaped history in major ways!
It takes some skill to make an inanimate object sinister. But that's exactly what Beautiful Singer is. It's a sword that takes over the owner's mind and leads him hand and headfirst down the path of doom. This is why I don't go in for antiques! The other two swords have their own distinctive natures as well. What was interesting is that the swords can’t make you into something you’re not. They seem to work on the inherent nature of the person. This destiny attached to these swords brings Mariko Oshiro to the front door of elderly Professor Yasuo Yamada, who is the owner of a sword that a violent Yakuza criminal tried to steal. This twisted path could only be destiny, as all the forces send her in the direction of a deep bond with the nearly blind expert swordsman, who takes her on as a student. Because she is the only one who can stop Fuchida, a man who has been seduced by the voice of his own sword, Beautiful Singer.
This book is just so good. It’s amazing how the story just drew me deeper and deeper. I wanted to find out about how these three swords could draw people into relationship with each other from historical to modern times, and not always in a good way. But ultimately, the right people end up in the right places, until we end up in the present with Mariko and Yamada’s story.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top fantasy story with all kinds of out there scenes, this isn’t the book. If you want a book with an excellent narrative building on a concept that seems magical, if you don’t believe in swords that are blessed and cursed, then you’d enjoy this book.
The cultural aspects had major appeal. As I mentioned earlier, the look at bushido and historical samurai was a good learning experience. But equally important was the view into modern Japan. I especially appreciated that the main character was a Japanese woman, who dealt with a society which is profoundly sexist, and she was driven enough to fight for what she wanted and needed in life, even as she ran into stumbling blocks of prejudice within her own agency, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I admired her drive and determination. I also liked seeing the walls come down between her and Yamada, as she realized that this old man was what she was missing from her life, the companionship and the belief in her that he offered. Yamada, I adored him! No words! I can easily see why Mariko came to love him so much. Relationships can be pigeon-holed because it is the natural way of humans to classify what is hard to define. But they are so complex. They provide what we need in this life in a way that goes way beyond labels. That’s how Yamada and Muriko’s relationship impacted me. And also Keiji and Hayano’s back in the 40s. Heck, all the stories added so much texture to this book.
My feelings for this book are so intricate, that I’m having trouble putting them into words. So I’ll just end by saying I just loved this book so much. It may not hit you the same way, but I hope that others find something to offer them in Daughter of the Sword. (less)
Stormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The m...moreStormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The main character is a brave but troubled young woman who earns my loyalty and encourages me to stand up for what I personally believe in.
But the one thing that really won me over was the connection between Yukiko and the arashitora, who she names Buruu. I’ve been an animal person since I was a wee lassie, and the bond between humans and animals is very important in my life. To see the love and trust that grows between Yukiko and Buruu, and their devotion almost brought tears to my eyes, because I am a true sap about stuff like that. Buruu is a majestic and beautiful creature, although fiercely lethal and untamable, as a legendary creature should be. I loved that although Buruu doesn’t tame down or change in his essential nature, he grows as the bond with Yukiko develops. They teach each other things important for their journey.
The world of the Shima Isles is a dark one. The place hovers on the brink of ecological disaster, and many crimes against humanity occur daily. The Shogun is clearly mad, and his power without limitation. On top of that is the Guild, which strives to make more of their poison lotus, despite its cost to their world and the people within it, and burns people who they view as heretics, probably all of which are innocent. In this kind of world, it’s hard to have hope, which is why Yukiko begins this story as a sullen and miserable young woman. She’s lost more than she can reconcile, feels the personal sting of betrayal daily, and it’s wounded her emotionally. What a good time for Buruu to come along, although their connection is not without anguish for them both. But in this world, personal sacrifice is necessary to right the terrible wrongs occurring. In the end, they are healing and comfort and safety to each other in a dark place. Together, they will not be defeated.
Stormdancer is a very good book. While it took time for me to get into the flow of terminology and world-building, I appreciate the author’s efforts to create such an immersive, fascinating world. The Japanese cultural elements appealed highly to me. Of course, I loved the strong young heroine, among many strong capable women who fight for their world just as the men do. The action scenes brought to mind some of my favorite martial arts/fantasy movies. I admit I am a serious fan of swordplay, and this book has some beautiful and bloody evidence of this martial art, along with others. I could see this is a gorgeous anime-style film, but I hope that it is made in live action, with its all Asian cast. I would definitely pay money to see this on the big screen.
While I agree that is definitely for young adults and for older readers who enjoy young adult fiction, I like that Kristoff doesn’t curtail his writing merely to fit in the current YA trend. The violence is quite descriptive and there is some sensual content (although fade to black). The storyline is quite dark, with the ecological sabotage for power and money, the cruelty and violence against so called enemies of the state, and the disregard for the welfare and needs of the citizenry. I think there are good lessons in here, although I don’t think Kristoff ever strays into PSA territory. It’s inherent and beautifully integral to this novel. Personally, I think this book is fine for readers 14 and older. However, I would recommend a parent reading it first. This one is very close to a five star rating, but since some scenes lacked clarity, I ended up giving it 4.5/5.0 stars. Despite that, I highly recommend it to dystopian, fantasy, and Asian folklore fans. (less)
While this was slow-moving at times, it has a depth, complexity and richness that called to me. I was immersed in the time period, and the sensuality...moreWhile this was slow-moving at times, it has a depth, complexity and richness that called to me. I was immersed in the time period, and the sensuality and veracity of the complex emotions the characters felt.
This was a very engrossing book. I got sucked in from page one with the intricate descriptions of Aneesa in her Indian wedding finery. And when Aneesa...moreThis was a very engrossing book. I got sucked in from page one with the intricate descriptions of Aneesa in her Indian wedding finery. And when Aneesa and Sebastian meet face to face. Wow! The chemistry between Aneesa and Sebastian is electric, like a taut band that will always draw them back to each other. Sebastian frustrated me at times, but in light of his very tragic family history, it makes sense. When he wasn't frustrating, I wanted to eat him up. He really was a sexy hero. There is something about heroes named Sebastian for this reader. We usually get along very well. I loved that Aneesa stayed genuine with him and true to herself. She was an adorable, very lovable woman that I wanted to hug. I liked how she acknowledged her immaturity and shallowness prior to the bombshell that changes her for the better when this book begins. She shows true maturity and emotional integrity as a woman.
It goes without saying how happy I am to read a Harlequin Presents with a heroine of color. I wish that instead of referring to Aneesa as olive-skinned, she would have just came out and call her brown-skinned. Even with that small issue, I was thrilled to bits with the tidbits about Aneesa's Indian heritage and the glimpses into her family life and culture.
I am loving this Notorious Wolfes series. Each book peels back the many layers into the fascinating emotional dynamics in this troubled family. Each Wolfe is distinct in my mind. I already adore Jacob. I think I will just float away like a happy cloud when I finally get to his book.
Abby Green hasn't disappointed me yet. This is another emotional, intense, very good romance by her that has all that I like about Harlequin Presents, but added depths that make me enjoy every minute of reading the book.
The Cleaner was a slow read for me, but ultimately I enjoyed it. I appreciated the attention to detail evident in this novel. It felt authentic (altho...moreThe Cleaner was a slow read for me, but ultimately I enjoyed it. I appreciated the attention to detail evident in this novel. It felt authentic (although I could hardly say yay or nay since I am not a spy and I don't know any). I feel that the world-building lends a credibility to the concept of Quinn as a Cleaner, at any rate.
As far as characterization, Quinn remains a mystery, but I felt that I got to walk inside of his skin and get a feel for how he processed things. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to the spy world. He is more than able to handle himself in a lethal situation. He uses his brain to get himself out of tough spots, and violence is a last resort, although he has no problem using it if necessary, although lethal force is not his preferred method. In his way, he is a man with values. He might steal a car, but he won't murder an innocent person, and he tries to protect those who are under his charge. It's clear that Orlando is very important to him, although he doesn't feel he can act on that. I think his apprentice Nate is in good hands with him.
I feel that people who enjoy spy movies (like myself) but haven't read a lot of spy novels might enjoy this book. It had that feel of the spy TV shows and movies I enjoy. Although at times it wasn't the most exciting book, I wasn't at the point where I wanted to give up on it. I would read it and then put it down if my attention wavered. But I did want to go back to it. I wanted to follow the story and see where it led me. I think that was because I was engaged with Quinn's character and his shadowy world of a cleaner, a man who goes behind the ops and erases any evidence of what occurred.
It's very hard to top a book like Water Bound, but this is a very good follow up. I think that Lev and Stefan managed to feel different although they...moreIt's very hard to top a book like Water Bound, but this is a very good follow up. I think that Lev and Stefan managed to feel different although they are brothers, both very dominant, possessive, dangerous, edgy, and surprisingly passionate men. I'm not going to lie and say that I wouldn't have liked Stefan even if he was too much like Lev. I just have no resistance to this kind of character. But, I am glad that I liked him in a different way. Lev started out very rough and turned into, not a puppy dog when it came to Rikki, but a lethal guard dog, who loves her and her sisters so much that he can be soft for them. Stefan is still learning how to be soft. He undoubtedly loves Judith very much, but he's not going to soften the way Lev did in that way. Instead, his strength and his hard core are given to protecting his beloved and her family, her way of life. It should be interesting to see how Stefan adapts to being part of the family of sisters and husbands in Sea Haven.
Christine Feehan does have the tendency to be long-winded, so it makes her books a bit harder to read than a more concise author (my favored writing style). But she utterly worth the effort. She does passion, danger, dark love in a captivating, distinct way. It's interesting how her and Anne Stuart (my #1 author) write the same genre of romance, but do it very differently. And each one is obligatory in my reading regimen. When I want the domineering (which isn't my favorite except how she does them, go figure), possessive, lethal beyond belief hero who falls head over heels for a woman, along with an interesting intersection of mystery and paranormal, friendship, familial love, and an appreciation for the important things in life, I run to Feehan, because it's her trademark.
Okay, rambling aside. I really liked this book. It didn't move me like Water Bound, because that's just a one of a kind read. But there was a lot to offer in this book. I loved Judith. She has an effervescence, and a strange air of the zen in the middle of a swirling wind of chaos. That's not really easy to convey, but I get that from her. Stefan is the right man for her, because she can handle the things about him that make him a very tough sell for other women, and she touches his heart, makes him feel like a man, not a shadow. And for Judith, Stefan is the one. He calms her in ways she needs calm, opens her up and encourages her to be at peace with her abilities and her emotions, the good and the bad, and he meets her head on with the fiery passion she craves in life. Plus, he appreciates the importance of art in her life.
I thought long and hard, and I have to give this five stars, because even without being perfect, it meets my needs. As a emotional reviewer, that's five star criteria.
Man, these books don't help my Russian fixation at all!(less)