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More Shogun leftovers--in a straightforward samurai saga of 12th-century Japan that efficiently offers a parade of brisk decapitations, hissing hatreds, and stately sentiments about the samurai's Way. In spite of an initially intimidating and confusing list of characters (mainly real historical persons), it all sorts out to a battle for power between the Minamoto and Taira families: the sons of dead chieftain Minamoto Yoshitomo--Yoritomo, Noroyori, and long-lost little brother YoshitsunÉ--will try to control the land and the court of the cloistered Emperor, Go-Shirakawa. At the start, however, hero YoshitsunÉ (who was exiled as a baby by the Taira Lord Chancellor) must learn of his heritage, receive the family sword, and stride forth on his quest of a samurai life. Only then, after the lessons of adventures and some spying (which results in the death of his first love) does YoshitsunÉ travel with joy and confidence to join forces with his long-lost brothers. But oldest brother, Lord Yoritomo, greets him coldly. And it soon becomes obvious that Yoritomo, who is planning a samurai government, is using his brothers merely ""for convenience."" Still, YoshitsunÉ fights heroically, wins two great battles, and accepts honors from the wily Go-Shirakawa, all of which tempts his brother's wrath and leads to humiliation, exile, and pursuit as a traitor--with loving comfort along the way from dancer Shizuka and the Lady Tamako. Finally, then, after a wilderness journey and much hardship, there is a tiny idyll of domestic serenity and bliss before YoshitsunÉ, his wife, and two children inevitably, nobly, join their ancestors. A fast-trotting mythic/historical adventure with pleasant period settings and tidy gore--competent sword-swishing for the samurai audience.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: McGraw-Hill