Debut novelist Kishek’s story of an aspiring samurai in 16th-century Japan introduces readers to a worthy protagonist with a bellyful of hate.
After 8-year-old Washi sees the evil warlord Senshu slay his loving parents and torch his humble home, he immediately vows revenge. He’s adopted by his Uncle Kuma and Aunt Kitsune, who are childless. Although he wasn’t born to the samurai class, Kuma teaches himself to be one and to be an exemplar of Bushido, the samurai’s code of honor; Washi learns not only all the martial arts, but also the art of swordsmithing. Kuma, now retired from fighting, is a legend both as a fighter and a swordsmith. Washi couldn’t have a better or wiser teacher and becomes formidable at both endeavors. Senshu’s men, on the other hand, are Ronin: warriors with samurai skills but with no honor, no Bushido. Washi grows to manhood, marries the lovely Naomi, and they have a son, whom they name Kazuki. But Senshu still rules the land and the people still suffer. Will Washi have his revenge or, as Kuma counsels, let go of his murderous rage? A final, gut-wrenching outrage seals both Washi’s and Senshu’s fates. In this book, author Kishek presents readers with a clash of pure good and pure evil in a tone that’s much more mythic than it is realistic. Over the course of the story, Washi dispatches bad guys like a superhero, and the narrative’s heroic simplicity sometimes demands that readers suspend their senses of disbelief. That said, the last page, which follows a morally challenging climax, is prose poetry of a high order, and the animelike illustrations are wonderful throughout.
A simple but transcendent adventure story.