Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Tale of Shikanoko: Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn

From the publisher: In the first book of the four-volume Tale of Shikanoko, an epic adventure begins in the mythical, medieval Japan of Lian Hearn's imagination: a world of warriors and warlords, of fallen emperors, lost princesses, and demonic assassins; a world bound by tradition and colored by unpredictable magic. All four volumes of the Tale of Shikanoko will be published in 2016. 

Emperor of the Eight Islands is an amazing story. I felt fully immersed in the author's mythical Japan of the past. Shikanoko's father is killed in a game of Go with clever and cruel mountain goblins. His uncle promises to bring him up as his own child, but soon the uncle wants his nephew's title and estates. Shikanoko accompanies his uncle on a hunting trip and knows he is not expected to survive the trip and return. When his uncle aims an arrow at him, the uncle hits a stag instead. Shikanoko tumbles down a cliff with the dying animal and is presumed killed. He takes the deer's antlers and assumes a new identity, the deer's child, under the influence of a sorcerer.

And thus we are pulled into a magical world. The flow of the plot, the character development, the mysticism, and the action is amazing. I've never read anything by the author before but am impressed.

I did have problems keeping the characters straight, as I am not knowledgeable about Japanese names and many of them sounded quite similar to me. It didn't help that many of the characters have nicknames, and the names of places often sounded similar to the names of people. I think anyone who enjoys mythology, especially lovers of Japanese mythology and culture, will be intrigued by Emperor of the Eight Islands.

I read an advance reader copy of Emperor of the Eight Islands. It will be published on April 16 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

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