Lord of the Darkwood by Lian Hearn
Books 3 and 4 in the Tale of Shikanoko series. Hachette,
2016. ISBN 9780733635151
(Age: 15+) Recommended. As the series title suggests, the story follows Shikanoko (Shika) throughout his quest to restore the rightful emperor (Yoshi) to the throne. After defeating the Prince Abbot in the first book, Shikanoko retreats to the Darkwood. His deer-mask has become fused to his face until someone who loves him removes it. Years pass and the reign of the imposter emperor continues. No one knows where Yoshi is, and the few that do keep silent. The river-people prove useful in harbouring not just the rightful emperor and Kiyoyori's daughter, Hina, but also, Akihime and Shikanoko's son, Take. But trouble starts when Kiku, one of Lady Tora's sons, grows restless. What can a young man with such a short life accomplish when he only knows the Darkwood? With five fathers his options are endless. While it seems that Yoshi will never be restored to the throne, they will all soon learn that they are simply pieces in a tengu's game - a game that has been paused for so long that it has almost been forgotten.
Picking up where its predecessor, Emperor of the Eight Islands, left off, Lord of the Darkwood serves to complete the prequel series to the highly-acclaimed Tales of the Otori. The prequels adds to the reader's understanding of the main series by giving a history of the prominent families and world of the Tales of the Otori series but does not necessarily need to be read in conjunction with the main series. Standing on its own, The Tale of Shikanoko, has a similar feel to a Japanese fairy-tale or myth. Recommended for lovers of fantasy and fans of the Tales of the Otori series.
Kayla Gaskell (umiversity student)