PUBLISHER: Roc Trade
RELEASE DATE: 2nd Oct 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 455 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.
The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.
But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her. (Goodreads)
I love all things Japanese, so when I started DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD by Steve Bein, I was expecting to love this book. It is set for the most part in Tokyo, but also delves into Japan’s ancient past, detailing the honour codes held by samurais.
The book begins in the modern Heisei era, in the year 2010, with the villain, Fuchida Shūzō, and a description of his attachment to his ancient sword, Beautiful Singer. He goes so far as to sleep next to his sacred blade, despite knowing that one wrong movement could result in his death. The sword was forged by the legendary sword smith Inazuma, who is said to have endowed his blades with the power of destiny as well as being supreme samurai weapons. However, no-one has ever held the power of more than one Inazuma sword, and Fuchida aims to be the first to have held two of the legendary blades.
His first slash severed her spinal cord not far above her pelvis.
She collapsed, legs as lifeless as ropes. A dark bloodstain spread across her carpet. It was already as wide as a welcome mat. Fuchida bent down, took the phone from her hand, hit END, and slipped the phone into his pants pocket.
In the same era, we are introduced to Mariko Oshiro, the only female detective in the Tokyo Police Department who has worked extremely hard to earn her place in the all-male environment. However, this does very much define her character before we even meet her, as it is obvious that she struggles against sexism, making her bitter towards her colleagues. She is striving to win a place in the narcotics division, but her harsh lieutenant is looking for any excuse to dispose of her and send her right back to the lower departments.
When Mariko leads a successful arrest of a local drug dealer, it becomes apparent that there may be more going on in Tokyo than meets the eye, as the dealer gives her inside information on a potential delivery of cocaine to the city. Knowing that the yakuza don’t deal in hard drugs, this implies a new enemy, and Mariko has enough to deal with at home, as her sister Saori was arrested as part of the drugs bust. Her vengeful lieutenant then puts her on an attempted theft case as part of his scheme to keep her away from the hard cases of narcotics.
However, this attempted theft case proves to be more than meets the eye, as she meets the old Yasuo Yamada, who claims that someone attempted to steal his ancient sword. He owns another of the Inazuma blades, Glorious Victory Unsought, the very sword which Fuchida seeks. Despite her initial scepticism of Yamada’s stories he begins to train her in the art of the samurai, as it becomes clear that this could be the biggest case of her career, if she can only stay alive to see it through.
I really liked the use of Japanese history and culture throughout this book, as it is clear that the writer had done his research and tried to make the eras feel as authentic as possible. However, I didn’t like his inclusion of Japanese terms that then weren’t explained. There is a handy glossary at the back of the book, but I don’t enjoy having to stop my reading to look up a word.
The book is split into different eras, with the majority of the story taking place in the present day, but I liked how these different time periods seemed to intertwine with each other. These sections give us a sense of the history of both swords, with some sections detailing the past of Glorious Victory Unsought, whilst others tell us about Beautiful Singer. There is even the implication of a third Inazuma sword that might be just as vital to overcoming Fuchida, as each sword has its own mystical qualities.
As for the main character, I liked how strong and independent she was, and also respected how much she had to deal with at home, with her sister being an addict and her mother being worried sick about them both. Although I didn’t like the stereotype of being the only female in an all-male environment I still felt that this shaped Mariko into being who she was and so still enjoyed reading her scenes within the confines of the police department.
I loved the plot of this book and I felt that it was very well-crafted by the author, but there was just something stopping me from getting completely into it. It was very much the kind of book that I could have put down and not picked up again for a long period of time, and as such it took me longer to read than it should have. The writing was good, the description may have seemed a little long-winded in places, but for me it was just missing that spark that makes me unable to put a book down.
Despite all of the build-up to the final confrontation throughout the book, I felt a little let down by the ending as I thought the conflict was too rushed, and that Fuchida wasn’t given the time to shine as a villain. Mariko also didn’t seem to progress as a heroine, as I didn’t feel that she had developed as a character or learned any significant life lessons aside from sword fighting. However, I still enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who like fantasy and those who take an interest in Japanese culture.
This was a book that carefully mixed together a range of different Japanese eras, charting the history of the Inazuma blades. I liked the premise of this book, with the idea that the swords had their own destinies and inevitably tied together those who own the blades. The villain was suitably psychopathic but I felt that he could have been more intimidating, especially in his final encounter with the heroine.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. Daughter of the Sword
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