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
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 the Eight Islands is also on this site); in the
US it is split into four.