Stars: 4.5 out of 5.
About a quarter of the book in, I realized that this wasn’t the first book in this series, because the characters referred to events that had happened in previous books. This however didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. I also must note that I didn’t know that the Legend of the Five Rings was a table top RPG. Needless to say, I never played it, nor was I familiar with the lore and world. This, however, didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this story. So I can affirm that this book can be read as a standalone.
The world depicted in this book has some strong similarities with medieval Japan (which I am all in for, since I love Japanese culture and history). It is, however, slightly more tolerant on some issues than its historical counterpart. For example, women can hold positions of power in the government (one of the characters is a general in her household), and it seems like same sex relationships aren’t frowned upon.
I loved Shin and his sidekicks that he seems to accumulate with ease by turning criminals into allies and by knowing exactly how to get the best use of someone by allowing them the dignity of being themselves. Shin is smart, very curious, and with a mind honed to solve complex puzzles. He is definitely wasted as a mere representative of the Merchant Guild. He is also pretty fearless, which gets him in trouble more often than not, to the consternation of his bodyguard. I loved her too. She is Shin’s exact opposite – impatient, a stickler for rules, and straightforward and unbending. Where Shin can be deceitful with words and actions to get results, she prefers to have her katana speak for her. Amazingly enough, they work pretty well together.
The main intrigue is also pretty interesting. Is Mosu an imposter or not? And if he is, why is everyone happy to pretend that he is not and proceed with the wedding like nothing happened? The more Shin digs into this sordid affair, the bigger a conspiracy he discovers. From what I can see, it even ties to some of the events that happened in previous books. Somebody is working to bring the demise of the Lyon Clan. Surreptitiously and from the shadows, using others to weaken their enemy. And that particular storyline isn’t resolved by the end of the book either. I will definitely pick up the next book in the series, because now I am invested. I want to know who the mastermind behind all this is.
I will also definitely pick up the previous three books about Daidoji Shin, because he is such a likeable character, and I want to know what other mysteries he solved and how he came to have some of the servants he has at his service, like the smuggler Lun. And now I am also interested in checking out other novels set in the Legend of the Five Rings universe, because that world is fascinating.
PS: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
PPS: Also, that book cover is amazing.