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The Snow Empress

(Sano Ichiro #12)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,086 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Japan, 1699: On a moonlit night on the northern frontier island of Ezogashima, a woman is running through the forest when an arrow strikes her dead. Meanwhile, in the city of Edo, the young son of Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective who has risen to power in the shogun’s court, vanishes during a moon-watching festival. When one of Sano’s political rivals hints that the boy ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Minotaur Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,086 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Things I've learned from this book:

-The best way to interrogate someone is to yell accusations at them wildly until they crack...admittedly this seems to be what they do in Law & Order
-People in 1699 Japan say things like "and don't try any funny stuff"
-With enough martial art training, you can make people fall into a deeper sleep with just a touch of your finger...ooooh
-If your 8 year old scratches notes in a big wall, you'll of course almost immediately find it and in the three months since he
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The idea of a detective story set in Imperial Japan is very enticing. If you enjoy the setting enough, this book is worth reading.

Nonetheless, I probably won't read more in the series. For my taste, the writing seemed a little glib and shallow. The investigation is conducted mostly by a man and wife, which is a nice twist. However, I have to say I found the wife rather impetuous and annoying, not inventive and interesting. The only characters I was especially drawn to were minor ones.

In many w
Tom Heeren
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, it's a really cool mystery novel with spirits getting into people's bodies like the popular TV show, "Supernatural"!! Detective Sano and his wife, Rekio are the most bright sleuths in solving a mystery in Hikkado. As for their son, Mauricho, he has been a brilliant little boy who escaped the wrath of the Lord Mamebrure who kidnapped him to punish the Andi people as well as sleeping with the native woman named Tarere who was killed by his uncle in the ending.

Moving book, of course!
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The descriptions are so good, I felt as though I was also in snow country.

Interesting portrayal of the Ainu of Hokkaido.

And the story goes on.
Dottie Riggs
I didn't feel this was one of her better books. I get the importance of her message, though. ...more
Sharon Davies
Quick mystery, nice twists, liked the historical aspect.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read some of this series before. This one didn't engage me as much as the others did. ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. It makes you parte of the story. So interesting and exciting from page 1 to the very end. I totally recommend it.
Beth Berger
I have read four books in the series. Thoroughly enjoyed each one
Historical murder mysteries set in Fuedal Japan.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samurai mystery! It might not normally be something I'd pick out to read, but the good thing about finding audiobooks at the library is that it's an easy way to try out different things. The Snow Empress is the 12th in a series starring samurai detective/government official Sano Ichiro. It's set in feudal Japan, in the year 1699. I have not read any of the previous books in this series, so I'm sure that I must be missing out on a huge amount of character backstory and understanding of Sano's pol ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historicals

Yay review finally up (albeit short).

This was my first foray into Rowlands mystery world concerning fuedal Japan (and that shocked me, I mean, a Samurai detective? The novel might as well have sprouted clawing treelike arms to pull me in) and I really, really enjoyed it. There were so many motives; so many leads! (view spoiler) It picks you
Kevin Vrieze
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is number 12 in the Sano series. A great rebound from the relatively slow pace of the previous two. It is a great combination of island spirituality and samurai spirit. The interaction between Aino Mosir and all the characters including the murder victim is a fascinating theme in the story. The Hirata development in this area is a lovely step in his Samurai growth. Even Sano seems to grow as a result of the factors in this case.

The story contains a very interesting exchange between Sano and
D. T.
Sep 21, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was actually angry when I finished this--angry that this lazy and ridiculous book wasted my time and wasted my faith in this author. After 11 novels, I'd thought Rowland's series reliably entertaining, a nice diversion into historical Japan with a (usually) engaging mystery. Even with the weaker books in this series, I've always found something to redeem it, if for nothing but the fact that I was indeed entertained.

But this one...this one was just awful. It was a noticeably strained effort, an
Feb 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
AS their son is kidnapped due to the ongoing battle for supremacy, Reiko and Sano go to an island, where the head guy has been taken over by his dead lover... a new culture is partly introduced, and the cruelty toward others continues on the part of the rulers. Geez.....

Japan, 1699. On a moonlit night in Ezogashima, the northernmost island of Japan, a woman is running through the forest when an arrow zooms out of the darkness to strike her dead. Meanwhile, a world away in the city of Edo, the ei
Except for the last few chapters, this would have been a 2 star book for me. I really enjoy and like the characters Joh Rowland has created. They have depth, and I actuallyc are for them. My complaint with her books is the ridiculous situations she puts these characters in. They just don't make sense.

I've only read two other of this series, and admitedly, I've read them out of order. Even having done that, I genuinely like Sano and his wife. I really want to know what's going on in their lives.
This one did keep me guessing - so many suspects, all with such reasonable motives!

Rowland pulls us out of the familiar streets of Edo, and into the strange world of Ezogashima for this adventure of Sano Ichiro and friends. She does a good job of capturing the mental journey that her protagonist must undergo, which mirrors his physical one, as Sano realizes that no, he doesn't understand the culture he is in, and that yes, he has made some assumptions that lead to errors in his own judgement.

Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Goddamn New Year resolutions. One of mine was to review every book read this year, which I'll be honest and confess is the only reason I am writing this review.
What to say? As this series has worn on, it has gotten decreasingly realistic, and increasingly sensationalist. I picked this one up because I have a curiosity about Japan's Ainu people, and no knowledge whatsoever. Other than being aware that they have a long history of conflict with the Japanese, a tradition of "shamanesses" (a horrendo
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The only thing I vaguely remember about this book is anger. I was angry at Reiko for flat out saying that she as a mother loves her son more than her daughter. Like... she just left her toddler child to someone else while she went out onto a quest she might not come back from and all to find her son, who could have been found by her husband too. It's not that I don't understand her, because everyone knows that the 'I love them equally' talk is bullshit, but still.
And the second one is the kille
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What intrigued me about this "detective" novel was its physical setting (Ezogashima,a far northern island of Japan), its time frame (1699), and the fascinating description of the indigenous people of the island (Ezos, or, as they call themselves, "Ainu").

As Sano, the samurai detective--and his clever wife, Reiko-- search for their young son on the island (who'd been kidnapped by a political rival), they are involved in solving the murder of the provincial governor's indigenous mistress.

Oct 01, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Xarah
I really struggled to get through this book, and had to force myself a few times to actually read the pages rather than let my mind wander. The murder was intriguing--I liked the setting of Ezogashima, Tekare posed an interesting murder victim--but I just it to be almost impossible to really get invested in the story. The final one hundred pages really picked up the plot better, but it was getting there that really wound up being a problem.

Like in some of the previous novels in the series, there
Dec 12, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japanese historical mystery readers
Another in the late 17th century Ichiro Sano mysteries. In this story, Sano is sent by the Shogun to the empire's northern most province, Hokkaido, to investigate what is happening there. He is also in search of his kidnapped son who has been sent there as part of the usual palace power struggle intrigues that Sano keeps being involved in.

This story is shorter than previous ones, less involved in the day-to-day palace intrigues and rivalries that Sano is usually in the middle of, and is more a s
Mike Cook
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This was an interesting tale full of vivid imagery and strong characters. I don't know how accurate it is historically, but it sounds right in the telling. Whether it is an historical novel, or a fantasy, I can't tell. The only serious difficulty I have with it is that the characters that are called "detectives" don't do much detecting, and the people most involved in the investigation, Sano and his wife, keep jumping to unfounded conclusions. This may be an aid to the plot twists, but most of t ...more
My very first foray in a Laura Joh Rowland book and not the last. What I liked most about this book is the setting of Egozashima, a place so distinctly old-fashioned and different from what was then the main city of Japan which was Edo.

I didn't find the whole mystery of who killed Tekare very thrilling - the problem was there were too many suspects, too many leads and not a lot of mystery. Sano as the "hero" and the main characters of this series also wasn't very interesting not like Hirata whi
This is more like it! I found The Snow Empress to be a better read than Red Chrysanthemum. It was a much smoother read. Exciting. Well paced. Sano Ichiro and Reiko's young son is kidnapped and taken to Ezogashima (present day Hokkaido and the Ainu). They begin a desperate journey to find their son. The local ruler is holding an entire province hostage for the murder of his mistress. If Sano can discover the murderer, perhaps he will have help finding his son. One of the best things about The Sno ...more
Jessica L Seay
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my favorite out of all of the Sano series, because of Reiko's unfaltering love and her determination. I like Reiko, I can see a lot of myself in her and her brash actions against a society not ready for a woman of her calibre. She is Sano's wife, lover, best friend, courage, and backbone. She will go to any length to prove her suspicions right and is not afraid of the dangers she faces. She is an amazing and protective mother as well. She really shines in this book more then the other's ...more
This is the 12th book in the Sano Ichiro series.

Not a bad read. The story got a little strange when the characters realized that Lord Matsumae’s body was also inhabited by Tekare, his murdered mistress. Very, very weird.

There were a few times when I wanted to go into the story and start slapping people upside the head! I don’t know why it took so long for the characters to get with it.

I usually really like this series, but this book was kind of hard to really get into. I was never really able t
This book was pretty interesting and it kept me reading. I could put it down and walk away so it wasn't SUPER great, but like I said, it kept me reading.
Warning of a few explicit contents toward the end, although they are easy to skip over and are small.
I liked the overall plot and the way we were given clues (although it did end open-ended to some degree), but I did think the characters were lacking. It was difficult to identify with them. There were times when I could feel for the characters a
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I don't know if I came to this one because I was reading more mystery novels, or if I picked this up with the bad habit of looking at the cover, reading the back and passing judgement. Whichever was the case, I found The Snow Empress to be really entertaining. It kept me guessing, which I enjoyed, and even if the villain seemed really obvious, there were parts about the plot that weren't wholly revealed until the end. I also realize that this isn't the first book where her main character appears ...more
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Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

Other books in the series

Sano Ichiro (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • Shinju (Sano Ichiro, #1)
  • Bundori (Sano Ichiro, #2)
  • The Way of the Traitor  (Sano Ichiro, #3)
  • The Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro, #4)
  • The Samurai's Wife (Sano Ichiro, #5)
  • Black Lotus (Sano Ichiro, #6)
  • The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria (Sano Ichiro, #7)
  • The Dragon King's Palace (Sano Ichiro, #8)
  • The Perfumed Sleeve (Sano Ichiro, #9)
  • The Assassin's Touch (Sano Ichiro, #10)

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