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by Steve Bein

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-451-46519-1
Publisher: ROC/Penguin

Sequel to Bein’s exotic law-and-order fantasy, Daughter of the Sword (2012).

Tokyo’s DS Mariko Oshiro, the lone female on the elite Narcotics unit, has a price on her head thanks to a local yakuza boss known as the Bulldog. Then things get seriously weird. After a successful if routine drug warehouse bust, a man dressed as a SWAT team member steals an ancient iron demon mask from the premises—and the Bulldog declares that he’ll lift the bounty if Mariko recovers it. That night, somebody enters her locked apartment and steals the rare Inazuma sword that hangs on the wall above her bed—without waking her and without leaving a trace. The sword has the peculiar property of guaranteeing victory to those who wield it—but only if they don’t want to win. The mask grants the ability to seek out Inazuma swords but renders the wearer dangerously obsessive. Somehow, mask and sword are linked, and Mariko delves into the voluminous notebooks of her late sensei, professor Yasuo Yamada, who was not only a swordsman and scholar, but also knew of the magic properties of both items. In two historical excursions, cumulatively larger than the main story, Bein details the association between mask and sword. In the late 16th century, the samurai Daigoro wields what will become Mariko’s sword against the mask’s wearer, who is clearly insane, while more than 100 years earlier, ninja cultists force young shell-diver Kaida to use the mask’s power to retrieve the sword from a deep shipwreck. There’s no doubting the authenticity of Bein’s creation as he elegantly binds all the elements together, even if the points of attachment are things rather than people. The main flaw is long-windedness, with long sentences preferred over telling phrases.

A solid effort but one that badly needs streamlining.