Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman of ancient Japan who has lost everything -- except a single purpose: keep a promise to the woman he loved. In order to fulfill his vow, all he has to do is fight a horde of demons and monsters, bargain with a few ghosts, outwit the sinister schemers of the emperor's court, find a way to defeat an assassin who cannot be seen, heard, or touched -- and change the course of history. Fortunately, Yamada specializes in achieving the seemingly impossible, so he is sure in some way to succeed...if he doesn't drink himself into oblivion first.
I write mostly fantasy, both short stories and novels. My third short story collection, On the Banks of the River of Heaven was published in November, 2010. My second novella with PS Publishing, The Heavenly Fox, was released in early 2011. I've been a finalist for both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature.
This book was an enjoyable mix of historical novel (Kyoto in the 10th or 11th century), crime (mysterious deaths) and Japanese mythology (demons, ghosts, will-o'-wisps and many more).
When I read the blurb, I knew I had to have this book. I'm a huge fan of Japan and I love fantasy novels that aren't set in the Western world. And I was not disappointed by this book.
Yamada is not exactly your average fantasy hero. He's very fond of sake, only works when he needs to pay the rent and has some rather questionable friends. I thought that made a very interesting protagonist.
While the setting of ancient Japan was always present, it's not what this novel is about. Thanks to lots of small details, like secret messages hidden in confusing haikus, or the way everybody got paid in rice and not money, the setting felt very authentic and tangible. The author didn't need to explain every single detail to make this a highly intriguing setting. There's a glossary explaining the Japanese words that keep coming up at the end of the book. Unfortunately, I only realized that when I'd already finished the book and sent a whole barrage of texts to my best friend who speaks a bit of Japanese. I really liked that the supernatural beings in the book were taken from Japanese mythology.
The author's style is very formal, which fits the era and the noble protagonists, but never feels stiff or forced. It felt perfectly natural. This book was a quite challenging read for me and it took me unusually long to finish it, even though I very much enjoyed it.
The plot was never predictable. I did have an idea about some minor details, but the ending could've gone anywhere from happily ever after to the tragic deaths of everybody involved. That made for a very gripping read.
I loved how subtle the love story was. Sure, Yamada's love is the reason for his actions, but the romance itself remained a minor sub-plot. The author handled this aspect very well.
To sum it up, "Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate" is a slightly unusual fantasy novel. The setting of Kyoto in the 10th or 11th century felt very authentic and was thoroughly intriguing. I loved how the author used lots of Japanese mythology in the book. I'm looking forward to the next book about Lord Yamada, which is supposed to be published sometime next year.
was bit disappointed in the beginning cause this book was not filled with short stories like its predecessor but was a big single story. But, now that i have finished the book, i have no regrets and infact i even enjoyed the book more than the previous one. Good work.
I keep wanting to like the Yamada Monogatari series but there's just something off about it. After the first book both intrigued and bored me, I probably should have expected what I got out of the second one.
To Break the Demon Gate, like Demon Hunter is set in a monster-haunted early feudal period of Japan. Ghosts do not rest easy, demons abound, and humans get mixed up in their otherworldly games. It has some basis in history, so if you know your Heian period Japanese clans, Minamoto, Taira, and Fujiwara, you'll be happy to see them engaging in political games within the pages of this book. Lord Yamada is a haunted ghost/yokai sensitive disgraced Lord living on the edge of poverty (Despite the rich rewards he receives often from the imperial court for solving mysteries).
First, what I liked: I love the yokai (monsters) and yurei (ghosts) in this book! I couldn't get enough of them, and sadly there weren't enough of them, but the descriptions in this book made every alley and garden seem a little haunted at night, something the people were used to, but scared of. I love how full the world feels because of the mythology.
A lot of the characters were quite Deep and enjoyable. Kenji, Lady Snow, the Prince, Seta, loved them all.
The murder mystery was interesting, even if the hints were way too subtle to ever figure it out myself. In fact, even though the story points to one person often, you never know until near the end how that person could have done it because details never came until the end, and the protagonist never shared his thoughts with anyone, including the reader (I hate this, more on this later).
I can picture the world so well. It feels like a Japanese painting. Beautiful and alive with different people.
What I disliked: Yamada always seems haunted, and needs to buy an emperor's fortune worth of sake to keep sane, yet, I never feel his emotions very well. He always tells, and never shows them. ("I was haunted"). The first book had this problem as well. He seem unaffected and aloof and yet, is so haunted at the end of the book.
Yamada is always hanging a carrot on a stick in front of other characters and the reader. He always knows way more than we do, and it gets annoying when he just won't come out and say something or think something to give us the slightest detail of what the freak is going on. He is of the mind "All will be revealed in time" and it is quite annoying never being privy to important information. In fact, this results in a feeling of everything is deus ex machina, a detail that just got revealed to help the story along. You will always feel in the dark in this book.
After everything Lord Yamada has seen and experienced, he seems surprisingly unwilling to believe things. He accepts the cards given to him, even when details are in front of his face he takes an awful long time to be affected by them or even have a hint of belief. This also drove me nuts.
I also keep think there will be some oni-slaying action, but alas, samurai swordplay against Yokai and demons just doesn't happen much in this story, and when it does, it's usually instantly over in a single paragraph. Lord Yamada always has a tachi ready, but he rarely uses it to fight demons and yokai. Would have loved more of this.
So, why did I finish this even when the first book had the same effect on me? Well, if you can get through the annoying protagonist, you have a beautiful haunted world, interesting events and mysteries, fun characters that represent all aspects of feudal Japanese life. It really is both intriguing and boring, if that can even be. I guess I'll read the next one, expecting something else, getting more of the same, but nevertheless enjoying it because the world is so mesmerizing.
I got into the Yamada Mongatari series a little sideways, I was re-reading Tomoe Gozen and wanted to see if there were other "fantasy" books about Japan, jackpot! Anyway I'm into my second in the series and I'll open by saying an enjoyable book. While Mr. Park is reusing somewhat from Demon Hunter there's some interesting twists with this one. The most interesting twist has to be Lady Snow; I won't give the details but will say I love the twist Mr. Parks gives to her, both background and actions. Welly thought out and presented in about the right way. Another twist is the return of Lord Sentaro (reminder, he was discredited in Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter). There's goodness with how Mr. Parks uses Lord Sentaro but I was also a little disappointed since this one of the re-use moments (but then Lord Yamada needed to learn about this type of demon somehow...). While I enjoyed reading this book there's weakness in that it drags a little and Mr. Parks seemed to be trying to graduate from telling short stories to novels, the flow/transition just wasn't as smooth as I was looking for. Having said that I enjoyed the book as a whole and do plan to continue reading the series after a little break.
I think this is Mr. Parks first endeavor at a full length novel. It starts off by repeating word for word one of the longer short stories in his first book (the first book was a collection of short stories). It's needed because the information in that story is central to the whole plot of the book.
It takes place in the Heian period (794–1185) of Japan. This is a mythic time, when demons, ogres, oni, ghosts, and the like are intertwined in the lives of the story. Combined with some aspects of Japanese court intrigues and it makes for a good story. Yamada No Goji is a minor nobleman that gave up life at court and when not drunk on saki makes sort of a living confronting and combating the supernatural, for a fee.
The story is sometimes a little disjointed. I think that is because it's inherently a longer work and Park's has to work at bridging some of the subplots to make everything work together. It's still a great book. And if you're a fan of the old D&D Oriental Adventures, well this book is what that system should have been shooting for.
While the story was still good, I was disappointed to see that it was mostly an expansion of the short story "Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge" from the previous novel Demon Hunter. The book begins with the story and ends with it. I also felt as though the author was just repeating a lot of what was established in Demon Hunter. There wasn't a lot of new information regarding the characters. Yamada no Goji was still a Sherlock Holmes - esque with a pension for drinking and self-loathing. Adachi no Kenji was still a monk who preferred earthly pleasures instead of the spiritual enlightenment he was taught. Taira no Kanemore was still the voice of reason in Yamada's life as well as the well-meaning friend who always looked out for his well-being. All of this and more was just re-introduced to the audience. My advice: If you plan on picking up this series, skip Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter at least until you have completed the other books. Otherwise you will be underwhelmed by it.
This is a great book. Lord Yamada is a minor nobleman in ancient Japan. He talks to ghosts and fights demons while trying to protect his loved ones and the city he lives in. This book combines many ancient Japanese mythologies and creates a wonderful story of magic and lore.
Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman with a keen mind and a tolerable blade, but he has little influence at court. So when the conspiracies of the nobility reach out to ensnare him again, he's reluctant to get involved. But for the sake of an old friend, he agrees---and finds himself confronted by a silent killer who is leaving dead bodies around the city. If he can't solve the mystery fast enough, he's bound to lose more of the few people dear to him.
I'm reading these incredibly out of order, I suppose, but it didn't make much difference as far as I could tell. The story is good about introducing characters, places, customs and so on as needed, without assuming too much knowledge beforehand. I liked the historical Japanese setting, and how naturally the supernatural intersects everyone's lives. Yamada is smart but not impossible to follow, and the layers of mystery generally work well.
I wasn't as fond of the alcoholism, or the way the story breaks between its first segment and everything that comes after (largely because Yamada spends four months drinking his life away). It's a little harder to sympathize with his poverty when he's wasting multiple opportunities to stay farther out of it.
All in all, though, it worked far more than it didn't, and I would be interested to read more in this series. This story is fairly self-contained, so it doesn't hurt to read out of order or as a standalone. I rate this book Recommended.
Publisher Description: Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman of ancient Japan who has lost everything — except a single purpose: keep a promise to the woman he loved. In order to fulfill his vow, all he has to do is fight a horde of demons and monsters, bargain with a few ghosts, outwit the sinister schemers of the emperor’s court, find a way to defeat an assassin who cannot be seen, heard, or touched — and change the course of history. Fortunately, Yamada specializes in achieving the seemingly impossible, so he is sure in some way to succeed…if he doesn’t drink himself into oblivion first.
Review: This was a very entertaining read. Yamada was an engaging character and moved well within the story line. The characters are thinly developed as a means to promote plot tension and emphasize the intertwined mysteries. The ghost world that is built is inventive and curiously fun. There is an undercurrent of humor that persists throughout the novel that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it is Yamada’s commentary and able glibness that enjoins that perspective.
While most reviewers stated that the novel, while written well, was not compelling enough mainly due to the lack of character development, I thought it fit well with the stories that were being told. Sometimes you have to sacrifice character depth for the broader tapestry and focus on the one.
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman of ancient Japan who has lost everything — except a single purpose: keep a promise to the woman he loved.
In order to fulfill his vow, all he has to do is fight a horde of demons and monsters, bargain with a few ghosts, outwit the sinister schemers of the emperor’s court, find a way to defeat an assassin who cannot be seen, heard, or touched — and change the course of history.
Fortunately, Yamada specializes in achieving the seemingly impossible, so he is sure in some way to succeed...if he doesn’t drink himself into oblivion first.
In its entirety To Break the Demon Gate is a solid read. It is well written, full of intrigue and action that is set in a medieval japanese like world. Yamada is an interesting character, disgraced from the courts and demoted to being a supernatural investigator. The world building displayed by Parks is impressive, and I found it refreshing to read another fantasy set in an alternative world to that of medieval Europe. What let this story down though was that I found myself not really connecting with the other characters in this story. I just could not emotionally involve myself with their motivations, actions, or plights. Perhaps Parks will be able to draw me in further with future releases in this series. It certainly has potential.
Although I truly enjoyed Parks' previous work with Yamada no Goji, I was a bit disappointed by his first outing in a full novel. Building off of one of the short stories in the anthology of Yamada-san's adventures, this story again expands upon Yamada's background and plays heavily against his personal investment into the Imperial court that he wisely tries to avoid but seems continually dragged back to by his allies and enemies therein in equal measure.
I did enjoy the story, mostly because I like Yamada no Goji himself and enjoy his interactions with his landlady, his priestly friend Kenji and his various connections with both the mundane and supernatural underworlds.
Truly, I think Parks' may have moved out of his comfort zone by turning a Yamada story into a full novel, but perhaps this will spur him to other efforts of the same nature and perhaps honing the craft of novel writing.
Very satisfying expansion of a Yamada story into a novel. I am a big fan of Parks' short fiction in general and the Yamada stories in particular so I was eagerly awaiting this one and actually preordered it.
I very much enjoyed reading it and whilst I didnt love the novel as much as the short stories I still thought it was a very satisfying tale and I look forward to reading the next novel in the series in due course.
Well I lost this book, found it the other day, and finished it. This was a great Chinese fantasy novel and a joy to read. The characters are strong and deep, and there is just enough to drag you into the intrigue. There are a couple of moments that you don't expect, which blindside you. There is a lot to take in here. I believe there are more in this line, and I will definitely seek them out.
Not as strong as the earlier book in the series. This installment is a full-fledged novel rather than a collection of related short stories, as in the previous installment. The author seems to do better with the short story format. The plot has the feel of a short story dragged out, though I still enjoyed the characters and setting.
I have become a fan of Richard Parks and greatly enjoy his Yamada series. Set in Heian Japan with all the supernatural elements one could want from that period, the stories read a little like court intrigue, part supernatural, and part crime mystery. Very enjoyable. This book unlike others I have read is a single novel instead of short stories.
"In the early evening a tiny moth-demon was trying to batter its way into my room through a tear in the paper screen, no doubt attracted by the scent of poverty."
And so Richard Parks drew me into this novel. An interesting twist on the paranormal private investigator trope, this time set in Japan's Heian period. Fans's of the Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden style of wit will appreciate this book.
The Yamada books are a great, easy read that is a ton of fun. The setting is so unusual for Western fantasy writers that it makes for a really fresh experience. From what I know and have heard from others the Japanese elements are well researched and presently fairly accurately.