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Emperor of the Eight Islands

(The Tale of Shikanoko #1-2)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  759 ratings  ·  81 reviews
FOUR MILLION COPIES SOLD. In 40 languages. One of the most thrilling series of our time. In this magnificent new epic, destined to become a modern classic, bestselling Australian author Lian Hearn transports us to a mythical Japanese world set 300 years before TALES OF THE OTORI.

Like George R. R. Martin, Lian Hearn has captivated millions of readers worldwide with her mast
Paperback, 431 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by Hachette Australia
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Tyson It is very similar to the Otori books but it is definitely a new world. If you enjoyed the first series you should have no problem with this one as it…moreIt is very similar to the Otori books but it is definitely a new world. If you enjoyed the first series you should have no problem with this one as it feels very similar.(less)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Start your review of Emperor of the Eight Islands (Tale of Shikanoko, #1-2)
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, japan
Lian Hearn's fantasy novels play out in a trippy, magical version of medieval Japan, which if nothing else makes a change from the versions of medieval Europe that constitute the rest of the genre. It must be said that it never entirely gets away from feeling like a Westerner's idea of Japanese folklore, and one reads this wondering constantly how a Japanese author might have done things differently. But that said, Hearn is much more than just a literary weeaboo, and her long study of the countr ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was such and easy read and I really wanted it to be. I hadn't been reading anywhere near as much as usual and I was in the midst of many books, but this one was the one I decided to focus on finishing first, becuase it's written in a way which makes it easy to read. If I didn't know better I would almost say that I thought that this was a children's book becuase of how easy it is, but there are sexual scenes so I except this would actually be classed as a YA.

This story is set in the sa
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first_reads, fantasy, 2016
Your life is not your own. You will die to one life and rise to another, to become what you are meant to be.

It's been quite while since I last read the Otori series, but I have a date with it for right after I read the next instalment of this series. The Shikanoko series is set a couple of hundred years before the events of Otori and, just like the other series, is gripping, intelligent, and one hell of a ride. As it is set prior to the Otori series, there is no need to be familiar with that s
Chris (The Genre Fiend)
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Review originally posted at Geek of Oz here.


There is a fine line between objective and subjective criticism. Some reviewers can tell you the difficulty in maintaining professional distance when critically analysing something, especially if that something provokes the kind of absolute joy or abject loathing that keeps someone like me motivated to write.

It's a difficulty I run into when reviewing Emperor of the Eight Islands, Lian Hearn's first book in the prequel to her acclaimed Tales of the
W.G. Saraband
This one was a disappointing read.

While the setting is certainly interesting, the writing falls flat, and is often confusing. I found myself skimming through many of the pages, because I just became distracted and couldn't care about what was happening. The characters are very undeveloped or simply boring, and there are lots of them.

I was lured by the very beautiful cover of this book, falling into a very old trap, and I should have known better.
Coral Davies
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imaginative and magical. This complicated tale about the multiple entwined lives of those living in a mythical Japan is delightfully engaging. Thank goodness for the map and character list at the start! Without it I would have gotten dismally lost in this intricate book about an emperor usurped, a wrathful Heaven and those who try to put right the many wrongs that are littered throughout this novel.

I am excited to read the next instalment and discover the fate of those characters that managed t
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Exciting, action-packed, mystical, power-playing and interesting characters with converging journeys. This book was selected for Book Club and we all enjoyed reading it. What the book lacks in character development, it makes up for in its pace. Everything happening is exciting and immediate with no dull tangents. It was full of surprises and completely unpredictable.

Some of the characters were hilarious, especially the spirits. Some situations were amusing too if you enjoy seeing the funny side
Karen ⊰✿
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
There was a lot more mythology than I expected in this book. I thought it would be much more about the warrior culture and political intrigue.
It was still a really interesting read, and I loved some of the 'magic', but it was also a difficult read sometimes with so many similar names (especially when listening to the audiobook) and I felt like it was a little long.
Sadie Slater
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd often glanced at Lian Hearn's fantasy novels, set in a fantasy country inspired by Japanese folklore and history, in bookshops but never actually bought one until earlier this year when I was trying to find a third book for the three-for-two offer in Blackwell's and picked up Emperor of the Eight Islands, a recent novel which is the first of the two-volume sequence The Tale of Shikanoko rather than being connected to the earlier sequence which began with Across the Nightingale Floor.

May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as big a fan of this series as of the “Tales of the Otori” but hey :) I eat up this kind of fantasy content
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Managed to acquire this and the sequel in beautiful hardback.
So it seems to have become my post Xmas tradition to read another Lian Hearn book. Seems a sure way to end/begin a year with a guaranteed good book.
I haven't read the Otori series for a long time but it was a childhood favourite for me. The Tale of Shikanoko is set in the same world, sometime in the past. There are just a few small things that link to the Otori world I remember, but it is largely quite a different land with d
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems like it's taken me a while to finish this (well, longer than usual), despite it being incredibly fast paced. It's described as being set in a "mythical medieval Japan" and as such, much of the story is tied up in complex family lineage, with many characters having similar names. I felt like I had to read carefully and often had to re-visit certain pages and the handy character list at the beginning of the book.

A difficult book to describe, but a "Japanese Game of Thrones" is probably th
Feudal Japan, sorcery, spirits, rival clans, evil, good, legend and trickery are all present in a fantasy tale of many characters, animals and even man-made animals.
The writing seemed at times to be like a non-fiction book in describing the events with few adjectives and a coldness around most of the characters.
Fantasy is not my genre but I still enjoyed this book.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review also appears on my blog alexreadsboooks
Kazumaru is about to be killed by his uncle, who wants to take over the family's estate once and for all, but a stag saves him in the last second. What follows is a tale of magic, demons and political intrigue that sees a family toppled, a mysterious woman looking for five fathers for her children, and a powerful  priest meddling in the politics of the country.

I picked this up  because I felt like reading something inspired by Japanese cu
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kazumaru is treacherously slain by his uncle so he can inherit the estate that is rightfully Kazumaru’s. Or is he. while tumbling down a cliff side Kazumaru’s fall is broken by a stag. He ends up living with a powerful sorcerer in the forest, who fashions him a mask of great power out of the stag’s skull, and Kazumaru becomes Shikanoko and eventually falls in with a band of outlaws, the leader of who wants his own mask.
Meanwhile back in town there is meddling going on to alter the succession of
Alyssia Cooke
I'm in two minds about this one. On the one hand it is beautifully written with some wonderful turns of phrase. Throughout the entire novel, you could see how carefully crafted each line and paragraph was and it was really quite a pleasure to read. On the other hand, whilst some characters are carefully crafted and built, there were so many others that it became difficult to keep track of who was who and what was going on at times. This was even more noticeable because many of the names were und ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: winter-challenge
4.5 ⭐

A brilliant fantasy story set in a mythical, medieval Japan. A powerful priest, known as the Price Abbot, seeks to place his nephew, the second born son of the Emporer, as the next Emporer and murder the rightful heir. His actions are savage and brutal and nobody is strong enough to oppose him.

Shikanoko, a young warrior lord who was left for dead by his uncle, must survive in the Dark wood, learning secret powers bestowed upon him by a mountain sorcerer and a mysterious woman of the Old Peo
I'm not sure how I feel about it. The writing was a little odd and detached, the way a fairytale is told. The characters are like cardboard cutouts and just act bizarre. I was trying to make out the period Hearn burrowed from but the book contained a confusing amalgamation of elements of Heian and Edo periods. I thought I saw parallels between the Heike/Genji conflict and the Miboshi/Kakizuki and the author did confirm at the end of the book that she was inspired by their story and others, but l ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I loved the Otori books and went into this with really high expectations. Sadly, it does not live up to them.

It reads like an epilogue with nice descriptions of the scenery, or perhaps a very early draft of a story.

It appears character development was forgotten about bar the odd paragraph every so often where she remembers it might be worth doing.

New characters keep popping up and within a few paragraphs their use in developing the plot is made clear. The first handful of instances I tolerate
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After the Tales of the Otori books, which I absolutely loved, I had high hopes for this, but I just found the story and most of the characters in it a bit weird.

While maybe two of the many, many characters in this narrative were interesting, most were pretty unlikeable and undeveloped, including the protagonist. There was very little depth to the characters, and little to no progression within the characters themselves, or with their relationships and experiences.

Random characters seem to conv
This is TWO books in this series. Originally it had 4 books released.

Lian Hearns writing is always I find, rather blunt and factual. It can be a struggle to get into it but one you do, the river starts taking its course and only keeps going. I know it's not for everyone though.

This includes her characters being blunt and to the point. They're very flat and lack emotion, or so I feel as I read it.
This may be on purpose to emulate retellings of old Japanese folktales though.

Apart from this I a
This edition is actually books one and two of the series (Emperor of the Eight Islands and Autumn Princess, Dragon Child).

It took me over 100 pages to get into this, because while I enjoy both fantasy and Japanese history there isn't a huge amount of characterisation in the first volume. It does pick up a touch during the second one, and I did become somewhat invested in the plot. However if you find yourself easily bored you may find it even more of a struggle to connect with the text and aband
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Stunning and beautiful, full of magic, surprise, landscape, nature and history.

It could be considered that part of the beauty and poetic despair of the story is the fate of the female characters. Nevertheless, one day I am hoping to meet a beautiful, brave, fearless female fantasy character who doesn't get raped, tortured and otherwise endure suffering out of all proportion to the fate of the men, who often just get to rue their mistakes and die honourable deaths in battle - It might be why we
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
When I read the first five books in the Otori tales I was fascinated by the world, it was complex, tragic and beautiful in equal measures, so much so that i tried to linger there by reading a short story from the author.
The tale of Shikanoko takes us back to that world, but at its origins. Here we witness the origin of the tribe and get to know how Jato obtained its magic.
I'm not particularly into Shika (think he could be more complex than he is) yet it's nice to be inside this world again.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Did not finish.

I have been a massive fan of the Tales of the Otori, re-reading them many times. However, I just could not get into the book. I read the 1st part of the book (the first book in effect as this contains 2 of them), but gave up when starting the 2nd part.
Something wonderfully different!
This well read audio version was perfect for a road trip.
Interesting and unusual characters, including the landscapes all inspired by mediaeval Japanese folklore. a classic tale with something for everyone.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn and I really loved his way or writing. It is so easy to be absorbed and lost in his tales and to really feel like his descriptions are real things he has seen. This book was no exception, I cannot wait to read the next instalment.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
The characters created were quite good however I don't like stories that have so many main characters, it gets a little difficult to follow when jumping back and forth between characters each chapter. It was well written though otherwise. ...more
Eloise Mcallister
Not as good as Across the Nightingale Floor - I felt the characters were a bit flat. But, I'm a sucker for a bit of old school magic and mystery so still got sucked in. ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lian Hearn doesnt fail to impress. Reading this allowed to fall into the Universe that birthed Tales of Otori and now Shikanoko.
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Lian Hearn's beloved Tales of the Otori series, set in an imagined feudal Japan, has sold more than four million copies worldwide and has been translated into nearly forty languages. It is comprised of five volumes: ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR, GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW, BRILLIANCE OF THE MOON, THE HARSH CRY OF THE HERON and HEAVEN'S NET IS WIDE. The series was followed by two standalone novels, BLOSS ...more

Other books in the series

The Tale of Shikanoko (4 books)
  • The Emperor of the Eight Islands (Tale of Shikanoko, #1)
  • Autumn Princess, Dragon Child (Tale of Shikanoko, #2)
  • Lord of the Darkwood (Tale of Shikanoko, #3)
  • The Tengu's Game of Go (Tale of the Shikanoko, #4)

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