Review Blog

Mar 12 2017

Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn

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Books 1 and 2 in the Tale of Shikanoko series. Hachette, 2016. ISBN 9780733635137
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Lian Hearn is the pseudonym of well known children's writer Gillian Rubinstein. The need for the pseudonym stems from the difference in audience between novels such as Space Demons and her widely acclaimed series The Tales of the Otori. Emperor of the Eight Islands, like Lian Hearn's former series, is much more mature in terms of story and style; it also portrays themes of both sex and violence. These depictions aren't excessively violent and so I would recommend to fantasy lovers over fifteen.
The story follows Kazumaru, the deprived lord of Kumayama, who gains the name Shikanoko after the fall which should have meant his death. Shikanoko survived, coming to the home of a sorcerer, Shisoku. Shisoku gave Shikanoko a new name and a new life, unlocking and educating Shikanoko in dark magic. It is through his meeting with Shisoku that he first encounters Lady Tora, who will birth his five childrenódemon spawn. As his power grows Shikanoko becomes many things. A bandit. A warrior. An initiate. A father. A lover. With each advancement comes a new challenge which Shikanoko must overcome. Throughout the book he learns to be his own person and to do what is right to him. He will not be in the service to another man, he is destined to lead.
The Tale of Shikanoko (of which this book is the first) serves as a prequel to The Tales of the Otori and provides the history for the bow and sword that Takeo comes to inherit, as well as a history for the Tribe. Having read the original series I found this novel a fascinating insight into the world of the Otori which is so similar in custom to that of Japan.
Kayla Gaskell (University student)

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