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Chizuson Toshiro, performing his ordinary but skilled mapmaking skills in service to his master, senses the presence of something frighteningly unnatural in Master Shun's latest customer. Turning to greet the gruff-sounding man, Toshi is overwhelmed by what he sees - a being with greenish, demonic-looking eyes whose armor is dripping with tufts of wet seaweed! So begins a journey with multiple twists and turns that catapults Toshi into an unfathomable world full of intrigue, mystery, death, and a service that seems impossible. This charge, however, must be fulfilled in order to free himself and his captors. The alternative is to become like them, tormented but driven dead spirits!
As Toshi is forced to use his navigational skills to guide his eerie companions to their final mission, he is trained in bushido fighting skills and learns to trust his shipmates. Meet Asaka-sama, a slain daimyo whose sole focus is to restore the tainted honor and destruction of his clan; Miko-san, a gentle, humorous, but wise woman who transforms Toshi's fear into trust and dedication; Mitsuo-sama, his trainer in making the boken (wooden sword) an extension of Toshi's entire being; a fearless ninja who must destroy this boy expected to deliver a priceless object that will free one clan and destroy another; a blind Buddhist priest who will assist Toshi at an unimaginable cost; and other fascinating characters of the Asano and Tsuyu clans.
While this book is characterized as fantasy, it contains a fascinating world of samurai honor, skill, and culture that reflects the author's well-researched and creative presentation of feudal Japan. The characters become more than credible and yet the fearful mystique of "lost spirits" never escapes the reader's consciousness. Subtly and slowly increasing, Toshi's acceptance of his new life becomes the reader's enthusiastic support and tense anticipation of every step forward to success or failure.
This is a magical, unique novel which deserves wide recognition. Gloria Oliver's obvious familiarity with Japanese customs and history is splendidly presented in this haunting but beautifully crafted novel.
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal