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Toru: Wayfarer Returns

(Sakura Steam #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Revolutionary young samurai take on the West in this alternate history steampunk techno-fantasy set in 1850's samurai-era Japan.

In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as the commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial values decay. Foreign barbarians circle th
Paperback, 274 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Palantir Press LLC
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Stephanie R. Sorensen Jiro. He just kind of showed up and took over, pushing the plot and the other characters around to suit his big personality. I think he wants his own …moreJiro. He just kind of showed up and took over, pushing the plot and the other characters around to suit his big personality. I think he wants his own book in the series.

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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What a splendid experience I got reading this blend of Japanese historical and steampunk set in the latter years of the Shogun era. This slow developing story added the surprise of a mysterious hero who is much more than he seems and a sweet and lightly hinted at romance. I enjoyed delving into the history and culture of historical Japan even as the clock is ticking on this medieval land working through a fast industrial revolution all to keep the foreigners from invading their peaceful shores w ...more
Aug 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: steampunk
An alternate-history steampunk story set in 19th Century Japan? What could possibly go wrong?

(cue the music)

Toru: Wayfarer Returns is the story of a young (although unspecified) fisherman who comes to shore in Japan, after returning from a great trip to America, where he has apparently been able to absorb LITERALLY ALL THE KNOWLEDGE EVER. He brings some revolutionary ideas, which will threaten the power of the Shogun, so of course he has to be executed. Over the course of the novel, he manages t
Tony Breeden
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Toru Wayfarer Returns (Sakura Steam Series Book 1) by Stephanie R. Sorensen
One of the things I really enjoy about steampunk fiction is how it explores alternate history. In the first novel of the Sakura Steam series, Sorensen gives us a look at how different things might've been for Japan if the American Commodore Perry had met with a Japan with the technological might to resist him.

This is a character-driven story. Toru is the story's protagonist, a visionary who has returned to Japan after two years in the US. With the help of some minor nobles, a foreword-thinki
Amie's Book Reviews
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Firstly, I feel compelled to talk about the absolutely stunning cover of this book. It is gorgeous, and obviously I am not the only one who thinks so. The cover won a gold star award from the Book Designer website.

There will probably be some debate as to exactly what genre this book belongs. Is it Alternate Historical Fiction? Is it Steampunk? Is it somehow both? Or neither? My answer to those questions is that it is all of the above. With the addition of dirigibles, it clearly enters the realm
Jul 11, 2016 rated it liked it

Publisher: Palantir Press

Publishing Date: February 2016

ISBN: 9780996932325

Genre: Steampunk

Rating: 2.6/5

Publishers Description: While Sorensen’s heroes and their steampunk dirigibles are fictional, she builds her rollicking adventure and culturally rich tale against the backdrop of the “real” historical Japan of that period, weaving historical figures into her story, staying true to their motivations and agendas even while warping their actions, history and
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Very interesting book with characters who suck you into the story and keep you there. I did not want to put the book down but had to. Hopefully the next book will be as good as this one with its fascinating world & characters.
Alex Thorne
Aug 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
In Toru: Wayfarer Returns, we as readers are once again exposed to way too much exposition and a nearly suffocating amount of passive voice. Normally, use of passive voice doesn’t really bother me. In most books, I am unable to identify said voice because it doesn’t disrupt the flow. Unfortunately the passive voice saturates this book so thoroughly that I am unable to make it past 15%. In fact, I can barely remember which parts of what I read were relevant to the current action of the book.

I gav
Awesome Indies Book Awards
Awesome Indies Book Awards is pleased to include TORU: WAYFARER RETURNS (Sakura Steam Series #1) by STEPHANIE SORENSEN in the library of Awesome Indies' Badge of Approval recipients at

Original Awesome Indies' Assessment (5 stars):

Assessment 1 - 5/5 Stars

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 it is written that there is nothing new under the sun. That is a mostly true statement, and the meaning is evident to anyone who has noticed that most mediums of artistic expression (notably cine
John Milton
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best alternative history novels I have read in a long time.
Yzabel Ginsberg
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

More an alternate history novel than a truly steampunk one, "Tôru: Wayfarer Returns" deals with late feudal Japan faced with the potential intruding of American civilisation—more specifically, the last years of the Tokugawa bakumatsu, and the arrival of Commander Perry and his "black ships". The idea: what if, instead of feeling inferior to this technology, Japan at the time had had an industrial revolution of its own, and had been able to withs
Benjamin Kirkegaard
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
What to say about Toru?

Toru is a young man who was born illegitimately, lost at sea, rescued by americans, and then finds himself back in Japan (the country of his birth).

We start our journey into the life of Toru as he is coming home to Japan, and what a journey it is. Toru finds himself in the midst of conflict, with the constant companion of his imminent death. His overriding concern is the protection of his country, and he has come back to Japan to share his discoveries about the American pe
Marie-Jo Fortis
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Set in Japan in the 1850's and announcing the opening of the country to the world, this is a novel with a “futuristic” edge, that is a steampunk novel. For the ones not familiar with the genre, steampunk is a branch of sci-fi, a historical cyberpunk. Technology is important, but in its 19th century context. Hence the “steam” prefix, which evokes the machinery of the Victorian era. If inventions get slightly anachronistic here, it’s not in their historical context but in their geographical contex ...more
Melinda Brasher
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved the 19th-century Japanese setting of this book. I also liked the general premise and the characters.

My problem came with the believability of it all. In order to protect isolationist Japan from more technologically advanced powers like America, Toru and his allies basically conduct an industrial revolution. This is cool. But they do it all within a year, starting with limited resources. I just couldn't swallow it. Masuyo, Toru, and Jiro have clever minds, but little scientific or mechan
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I'm going to start with what I learned from the author's afterword, and work backwards.

The author has been a foreign-exchange student in Japan, where (it seems) she was welcomed, treated with great hospitality, and came to love the country and its people. This is great, but it also leads to the main problem of the book.

The problem is that the author has then written what's essentially a wish-fulfillment fantasy about how great it would be if Japan had become that peaceful, hospitable, amiable
Gloria Piper
What if Commodore Perry upon his arrival at Japan had met, not a backward nation, but one of overwhelming military power?

From her years in Japan, Sorensen is uniquely qualified to allow us the Japanese perspective. Rather than a rehash of the past, she offers an alternative history where real Japan meets steampunk.

The story begins when Toru returns to his beloved nation after two years in America. He is met, not with welcoming arms, but with arrest for treason. His crime? He has broken the isla
A.J. Culey
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Toru: Wayfarer Returns by Stephanie R. Sorensen is in some ways hard to categorize. It’s this amazing reimagining of 19th century Japan and the events leading up to the end of its 250 years of isolationism. It’s also an industrial steampunk revolution on crack, occurring at an unimaginable rate (over the course of perhaps a year), but is so richly detailed and slowly evolved over the course of the novel that the reader sometimes forgets to be skeptical at the breakneck pace of the industrializat ...more
Robby Charters
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He appears on the scene as a humble Japanese fisherman who had been shipwrecked and rescued by an American sea-going vessel. He has spent two years learning about America, where steam power has been transforming technology, telegraph has revolutionised communications, and there's even talk about flying air-ships that the French are developing. Toru has become fluent in English, and learned as much as he can about all the technology he comes in contact with. Now, he's arrived on his native shores ...more
T.S. O'Neil
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
First, I have to compliment the author on the stunning artwork on the cover. It's truly a testament to smart marketing that draws in potential readers right away. So many authors treat cover art as an afterthought, and that's a mistake.

The prose is lyrical in places and worthy of quoting. Toru, the hero of the story, is returning home to Feudal Japan after two years spent in the U.S. a local warlord seized him and threatened with death, only to be saved by the lord's daughter. I guess some of t
Alyssia Cooke
I didn't expect to enjoy this novel anywhere near as much as I actually did. It dives into historical Japanese culture with gusto, and considering this is not a culture I am at all familiar with, I was expecting to be left well out of my depth at best and bored at worst. After all, reading an alternative history - even Steampunk - where you do not know the actual history, is always going to be dangerous ground.

And yet I fell head into heels into this world, it's culture and it's characters. Some
Douglas Wallis
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To follow the progress of Toru, a returned wander into the rigid kingdom of Samurai Japan, where a rigid regime of isolation has successfully maintained peace and stability in a previously dangerous land of inter tribal warring over a long period of its history is fascinating. We gradually begin to realise the restrictions of their rule and the approaching menace of the rapidly modernising world that surround it's borders against which its inward facing isolation is ill equipped to resist. The a ...more
Ibiloye Christian
It is alternate history and techno-fantasy story set in 1850s Japan, on the eve of Japan's collision with the West. Toru, a young fisherman rescued by American traders was taken to America where he worked, was educated and made friends.
Toru defies the Shogun's ban on returning to Japan through the help of Captain McHargue, determined to save his homeland from foreign invasion.
Indeed, Charles Dickens was right that "every traveler has a home of his own," and he [they] do come to appreciate it b
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who likes a well-written book!
Subarashii monogatari desu! This story was superb, and I am so very glad I read it. Toru, a young man, is dropped off by his American friends on the shores of Japan, his homeland, only to turn around to face several armed Samurai. And from there, the action doesn’t let up. Having lived in Japan before, (Sapporo and Asahikawa on Hokkaido) I especially appreciated this story. I am also a fan of steampunk, so that was an extra plus for me. I loved the airships added to the story! I also thought the ...more
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subarashii monogatari desu! This story was superb, and I am so very glad I read it. Toru, a young man, is dropped off by his American friends on the shores of Japan, his homeland, only to turn around to face several armed Samurai. And from there, the action doesn’t let up. Having lived in Japan before, (Sapporo and Asahikawa on Hokkaido) I especially appreciated this story. I am also a fan of steampunk, so that was an extra plus for me. I loved the airships added to the story! I also thought the ...more
Lana Axe
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am honored to have been given a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Despite the danger it could cause him, Toru has decided to return to Japan to defend his homeland from an impending invasion. I'll admit I've never read steampunk set in Japan, and I found it refreshing. I loved the cultural references from bits of language to clothing to food. It was a fascinating look at an alternate history with plenty of industrial revolution goodness.

My favorite character had to be Mas
Jeanine Lipp
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, something that is gripping, intelligent, and utterly unique, read Toru: The Wayfarer Returns. The author expertly crafts a tale that weaves history and fantasy, American steam punk and ancient Japanese traditions, and the high stakes of love and honor into a beautiful tapestry as colorful and brash as the young, rebellious protagonists who set out to change the course of history. Each detail is written to be savoured; from the engineering of c ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I wanted to like this book, the setting is very nice but I could not get past the first 50 pages and I feel guilty since I won the book in a giveaway. The paste is too fast and there is no dept to the story or the character. But mostly I did not like the way everything is explained to you, how Toru felt and how the others felt in response etc nothing is left for us to interpret or imagine. And it's all pretty generic. ...more
Clay Davis
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received a copy in exchange for a review. Would like to have seen photography and newspapers introduce to Japanese society.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Cleaning up my shelf. This was a decent read. Looking forward to more from Sorensen.
gj indieBRAG
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We are proud to announce that TORU by Stephanie R. Sorensen is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!
Milos Mojsilovic
Sometimes you get the privilege of watching an artist hone his or hers trade. You see the dissorderly beginning, and then you see the work of art progress and develope as its artist progresses and ultimately completes the work.  And you can't help but marvel at how it's complex pieces end up fitting together so nicely.

It is so with this book. I love (love being an understatement here) a book that grips me from the first page. That weaves a tale around me so marvelous I can't help but grin like
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Recognition for Stephanie's debut novel "Toru: Wayfarer Returns"
-- Silver Medal, Science Fiction, 2018 CIPA Evvy Awards
-- Merit, Fantasy, 2018 CIPA Evvy Awards
-- Grand Prize Shortlist, Honorable Mention Commercial Fiction, 2017 Eric Hoffer Book Awards
-- Bronze Medal, Fiction, 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Awards
-- Finalist, Fantasy, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
-- Finalist, Multicultural Adult

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