Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > Cloud of Sparrows

Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: owned

‘Those who succeed and those fail are both destined to die.’

This novel, a work of historical fiction with elements of fantasy, opens in Edo in 1861 as two centuries of Japanese isolation is forcibly ended by outsiders from the West. As foreign ships threaten to destroy the Shogun’s castle in Edo, a small group of American missionaries arrives. The missionaries are the Reverend Zephaniah Cromwell, his fiancée Emily Gibson, and Matthew Stark. Unsurprisingly, each has secrets and each has a reason for wanting to be in Japan which is not directly related to missionary work.

The missionaries are received as guests by Lord Genji, the heir to the Okumichi clan, and Zephaniah Cromwell is fatally wounded in an attempt to destroy Genji. Lord Genji, like one member of each generation in his family, is gifted with prophetic visions and he has foreseen that his life will be saved by an outsider. When Lord Genji is forced to flee from Edo to his ancestral home: the castle known as Cloud of Sparrows, he takes with him the missionaries Emily Gibson and Matthew Stark, together with his lover Lady Heiko, and his uncle, the legendary swordsman Lord Shigeru.

Their adventures involve some bloodthirsty battles, some Zen-like wisdom, and some elements both of cultural difference and prejudice. For some characters, their adventures lead to increased self –knowledge and increasingly, tolerance.

‘Courage is knowing fear and overcoming it.’

I really enjoyed the portrayals of Lord Genji and Lady Heiko, as well as many of the minor characters. The turmoil of this period in history is clearly shown: the end of isolation from the West had its own impact on traditional Japanese society. Some elements of the story did not appeal to me – in particular aspects of Lord Shigeru’s story - and yet as a whole it fitted together in a particularly satisfying way. I enjoy reading novels set in feudal Japan, or using elements of feudal Japan to create alternate worlds.

I enjoyed this novel and I’ll be reading the sequel ‘Autumn Ridge’ shortly.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Cloud of Sparrows.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.