Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

June 1565: Master Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate.  Hours before, the shogun's cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun's palace.  The murder weapon: Kazu's personal dagger.  Kazu says he's innocent, and begs for Hiro's help, but his story give Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi's claims.

When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro's protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan.  With Lord Oda's enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin's skills to reveal the killer's identity and protect the shogun at any cost.  Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder.  But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo's wife, and the shogun's stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead.  With the shogun demanding the murderer's head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time... or die in his place.

I've been sitting here trying to figure out what to say about Blade of the Samurai.  Much like the last book I reviewed, All I Love and Know by Judith Frank, I'm of two mind on this one.  Where a relationship flaw threw me in that previous book, it's the setting that I'm having a hard time with in this one.

Part of the reason why I wanted to read Blade of the Samurai, was because of how much I enjoyed the first book in the Sugawara Akitada series by I.J. Parker,  The Dragon Scroll.  It's another series set in feudal Japan, and I fell in love with the feel of the entire book, even if the characters where a bit stiff and formal in their behavior, dictated by the setting.  The author brought that time period to life for me, and I couldn't imagine the story or those characters living at any other time, or in any other place.

I didn't get that with this book.  The author used the language and even some of the cultural differences to frame her story, but I never got that total immersion experience I was looking for. The entire time I was reading it, I would occasionally forget about the setting, and I was able to picture it somewhere else, in another time.  It just never felt like a fully fleshed out real world to me.  And I'm sad to say, I was a little disappointed by that.

On the other hand, I loved Hiro and Father Mateo, and just about every other character in the book.They were fun to hang out with, and I'm really looking forward to their next mystery.  And as far as mysteries go, while there was nothing that really stood out for me, it was a nice solid story, that kept moving along.  There were no plot holes, or odd jumps of logic.  Everything progressed in a linear fashion, and I really did enjoy the story overall. I just wish the setting would have been a little bit more concrete, allowing me to really lose myself in it.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.


carol said...

It's a shame it didn't quite live up to your hopes, but still sounds like it's worth reading. Or at least starting with the first one.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I do think I know a couple of people who might enjoy this one more than you did. I might have to check out The Dragon Scroll... :)

Susan Spann said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review. I'm always glad when readers are honest - and appreciative of the time it takes to not only read but to write the review itself.

Also, I'm glad you liked spending time with Hiro and Father Mateo - I love spending time with them too!

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Hiro and Father Mateo sound like characters I'd like to get to know!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.