The Sword of Hachiman by Lynn Guest
|The Sword of Hachiman by Lynn Guest|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Samurai, Love, Death, Revenge, War and Betrayal – The Sword of Hachiman takes the reader to 12th Century Japan, and to a fraught time filled with an exciting story and intriguing characters.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 372||Date: September 2016|
|Publisher: Romaunce Book|
|External links: Author's website|
Set at the dawn of the Shogun era, The Sword of Hachiman follows two warrior clans, the Minamoto and the Taira, as they struggle for power under the Emperor. At first the Taira are in uneasy control, but the three Minamoto sons, separated at birth, plan to secretly reunite in order to defeat the Taira and avenge their Father's death. The youngest, Yoshitsune, is deemed most worthy and is granted the family heirloom, the Sword of Hachiman, the War God. Initiated into love and espionage by a young Taira noblewoman, and tested in the ferocious hand to hand combat that is his birthright, we follow Yoshitsune as he meets his faithful retainer, Benkei, and as he goes behind the scenes of the Cloister court, where two extraordinary women enter his life…
Author Lynn Guest is based in Exeter, and has previously won the Georgette Heyer award. Her books are often set in the exotic and mysterious world of Twelfth Century Japan, as is The Sword of Hachiman. Originally published back in 1981, it has found a new home with Romaunce books. This is a story that has a basis in truth – Minamoto No Yoshiie and Minamoto no Yoriyoshi are still well known in Japan, especially to those familiar with The Zenkunen War and The Later Three Year War. Here, Lynn Guest has taken the myth and legend of these times and wound it into a dramatic story with compelling characters, transporting the reader to an earlier and far more dangerous time. Taking moments from myth and legend can be tricky, and this particular myth has been a well known Noh play, then a well known Kabuki play and most recently a film by famed Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa, so there’s a strong chance that those reading who are overly familiar with Japanese culture, will have some inkling of the path this book might take. As it happens, it’s an adventure story packed with excitement and complicated relationships, and is a lot better than I initially expected. Author Guest has a knack for putting the reader into the head of her characters, and whilst the pace might lag unexpectedly at various points in the book, the reader is still compelled to follow the tragic journey of these characters as they try to reach their aims. The emotion is vivid, and the fact that several of these characters are on paths that they have been training for all their lives, means that the stakes are very high indeed – making this historical fiction that tumbles along at a rapid pace. The writing throughout is strong too – some descriptions feel a little clunky, but it’s not a major issue, as the main plot and characters carry straight on through any issues.
A map and character guide is provided at the front of the book, and this is rather necessary, as the cast is large and some similar names may provide initial confusion. However, the spirit of the Samurai is conjured up fantastically well here, and these noble, tragic characters are heroic enough to inspire, yet flawed and human enough to make this a balanced and compelling read, and one that sweeps the reader along, any confusion forgotten as Yoshitsune’s adventures become increasingly more perilous and fraught – it’s a hard reader who won’t have a lump in their throat when it comes to the last few chapters of this one. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I’d recommend Sons of the Blood by Robyn Young, another book that combines historical fiction with compelling characters, and fully immerses the reader into a new and exciting time period.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sword of Hachiman by Lynn Guest at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sword of Hachiman by Lynn Guest at Amazon.com.
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