In this historical novel set in early-17th-century Japan, a samurai is guided by the ruling passions of pride, honor, and shame.
The book—a sequel to Kirk's Child of Vengeance (2013)—starts with the aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara, where a young and talented samurai has been sickened by the slaughter of countless fellow warriors. He renames himself Musashi Miyamoto, rejects the ritual of seppuku, declares himself a “masterless” samurai, and begins life as a fugitive. He becomes, in fact, something of a 21st-century heroic figure, calling into question “the Way of the Sword,” the samurai code to which men owe their allegiance and devote their lives with unquestioning obedience. By the terms of the Way, Miyamoto has dishonored himself, and to redress this wrong, a fellow samurai, Nagayoshi Akiyama, is sent after him with one single-minded task—to kill him. Miyamoto is proud of his outlaw status and willingly lets himself be found, leading to an epic confrontation between the two expert swordsmen. Miyamoto wounds Akiyama but doesn’t kill him and even nurses him back to health. Together, they travel the countryside, picking up a companion along the way, a blind woman whom Miyamoto begins to find himself attracted to. They make their way to Kyoto, where Miyamoto dispatches a cadre of samurai sent to take his life. In fact, these search-and-destroy missions give a rhythm to the book. Kirk doesn’t shrink from the violence these warriors mete out to each other and even finds both poetic and excruciatingly exact ways to describe the many duels that take place.
Kirk’s vigorous and robust prose complements the action to make rousing historical and philosophical statements.