Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Lord of the Dark Wood
The Tale of Shikanoko – Book II
Lian Hearn

Picador (Macmillan UK)
26 January 2017/ ISBN 9781509812813

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


The wrong emperor is on the throne, the land is in turmoil and no rain falls. Shikanoko is hiding out as a fugitive in the forest while Yoshi the true emperor hides away in a troupe of acrobats. He might be content with his lot, but Shikanoko is anything but; only one person can bring him back to the world and restore order, but she too is hiding away and biding her time…

This is the second and concluding part of this series based on mediaeval Japanese tales. Although not a long book by fantasy standards there is a lot in here; political intrigue, romance, action and fantasy all told in the author’s trademark elegant prose. Her characters are certainly put through their paces, growing and changing as they are affected by their actions and circumstances. They all seem very real, mostly being neither heroes nor villains but individuals capable of both terrible and heroic actions for believable reasons. As with all this author’s work the story hits the ground running and is admirably paced, full of lyrical descriptions, many surprises and even a link with The Tales of the Otori. Ms Hearn has a vast fund of knowledge of Japan to draw on and her slightly tweaked version of the Heian era makes for a rich reading experience. I was certainly sorry when I had turned the last page, and can name this as one of the standout books of 2017. I can’t wait to read what this hugely talented author comes up with next. Very highly recommended.

NB: In the UK this series consists of two books (my review of Emperor of the Eight Islands is also on this site); in the US it is split into four.

Reviewed 2017