I'm really conflicted about what to grade this book. I enjoyed it, but it was really depressing. When I closed the book all I felt was the futility of these people trying to make their own decisions. Someone is always there to take away their choice in one way or another.
Takeo, who is the main character, was an interesting person to follow. He seems strong in the sense that he is able to adapt to any new situation and still retain the core of who he is. But, he also seems weak because he lets himself be taken by these different groups who don't really value him. They just seem to value the services he can provide. It's hard to blame him for that weakness though, because it seems like there's no way to escape these groups who want him. I'm very torn over my attitude toward him.
It was hard at first to get into this book. I have a difficult time being immersed in a storyline when I constantly feel that I'm being told the story. It was like Takeo was an old man at the time and was reciting his coming of age story. Entertaining, yes, but also very distancing.
I really liked the fact that there were so many side characters. Even if they didn't play a big part it was nice to see them as part of the atmosphere. A lot of books have a bad habit of making their characters seem like they live in a vacuum. I'm pleased that wasn't the case here.
I felt so bad for the women in this world. They seemed to never win. They were hostages and pawns and controlled at all turns. Even women with control over their property were in a very precarious position. It was a little disheartening.
Even though I did feel distanced from the story it succeeded in making me root for characters. When that situation with Kenji pops up toward the end I was absurdly angry on Takeo's behalf. If I could have reached through the book and stabbed him in the eye I would have. I was also rooting for Takeo and Kaede. I wish there was a simple solution for them.
I guess that's why the book was so depressing. I got attached to the main characters and couldn't help but feel for their plights. Whether that was sympathy, concern, or anger depended on which point I was at in the story.
Overall I enjoyed it, so I guess I'll have to give it four stars.
Thanks for the rec new_user!