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June, 2016: Fantasy > Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn (book 1) 4 stars

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments This is the first book in the Tale of Shikanoko series. The series is a epic fantasy set in a mythical medieval Japan. It is part fairy-tale, part mythology, and part historical fantasy. The author was inspired to write this series when she say a group of young men rehearsing the oni sword dance and the deer dance for a festival. She was struck by "the resonance of a vanished world, where the lives of people and animals were closely entwined." Inspired by this she decided to write a novel that weaved in historical Japanese mythology.

Kazumaru is a young boy from a nobel family whose father dies when he is a child. Kazumaru is raised by his uncle who has ambitions to steal his inheritance. One day as before he reaches the age required to become master of his lands, his uncle takes him hunting and attempts to kill him. Kazumaru falls (this his uncle thinks he succeeded in killing him) but is saved by a sorcerer in the mountains. As he saves him he transfers a mysterious power through the creation of a deer mask. Kazumaru is "reborn" as Shikanoko which translates to "deer child." Shikanoko has an important role to play in the destiny of his country and this book is provides the outlines for what that destiny might be.

The novel introduces a variety of characters from a variety of nobel houses. As the action unfolds the destinies of a variety of characters become entwined. All the action is set against a backdrop of wild forests, court dramas, and the battlefield.

I really enjoyed this book. It is not your typical fantasy novel. There is magic but it is subtle and weaved into Japanese mythology rather than typical magician/wizards, etc of you standard fantasy. The magic is not a primary piece of this book and most of the action is very much centered on real human drama. I will definitely keep reading the series. All four volumes are due to be released in 2016.


message 2: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I loved her Otori series, as did my husband who rarely reads. I'm looking forward to giving this a go, and how exciting that they are all being released this year!


message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Susie wrote: "I loved her Otori series, as did my husband who rarely reads. I'm looking forward to giving this a go, and how exciting that they are all being released this year!"

Ooh, I will have to check them out! About this series, the final book is due out in September. I think the first two are our already (at least in the US)


message 4: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I hope I love it. My husband has expressed interest, even while watching the playoffs so he must REALLY be interested!


message 5: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Susie wrote: "I hope I love it. My husband has expressed interest, even while watching the playoffs so he must REALLY be interested!"

I hope you love it too! I will say that I wasn't thrilled about one thing that happened toward the end. It's the type of thing for which I usually will deduct stars but it's something that hasn't been resolved yet so I may end up deducting stars in the subsequent books if it goes in the direction that I dislike. Cryptic but I don't want to give any main plot details.


message 6: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments Hmmmm. You've just made me bump it up my list to find out! I have a few book club books to read first and then I'm there!


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