Gloria Piper's Reviews > Toru: Wayfarer Returns

Toru by Stephanie R. Sorensen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: drama, fantasy, fiction-historical, survival, steampunk, alternate-history

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 island's strict isolation policy by arriving with Western books and goods. It doesn't matter that he warns of Western invasion and the need to build a military defense. Instead the Shogun, who rules in the name of the Emperor, orders him to be executed, eventually.

Meanwhile his plan to defend the nation catches fire in the minds of the lady Masuyo and the commoner Jiro. These two are my favorite characters. No one knows for sure whether Toru is a commoner or a noble, but as a noble he breaks tradition by being a close friend of Jiro. As a commoner he breaks tradition by becoming friends with Masuyo. Nevertheless Masuyo and Jiro cannot be limited by their class because their brilliant talents not only forbid it but enable Toru to lead in the modernizing of the Japanese military.

I like the organization of this steampunk novel. It begins with a simple pronunciation key for Japanese.

At first I puzzled over why the Shogun would order Toru and his followers' deaths. Further along, I could see what the nobles would lose, even as they repel foreign invasion. Inhabitants walk a tightrope of rigid tradition which kept Japan stable for generations, and stagnant. One may wonder why Toru seems to accept his coming execution in so calm a manner. Why are our heroes so restrained? But as we follow the story, through the author's excellent command of Japanese culture, we witness the honor, dignity, and beauty of the Japanese ideal.

The novel held my interest through its drama, its enlightenment, and its subtle humor.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 23, 2016 – Shelved
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: drama
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: fiction-historical
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: survival
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: steampunk
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: alternate-history
February 23, 2016 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Donna (new)

Donna I bet Renee would especially like this book. She loves Japan and Steampunk.

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