October 06, 2011

Shike by Robert Shea

What an amazing tale! Shea does a wonderful job recreating early Japan and China and telling the story of two very intriguing people.

Jebu, a warrior monk of the Zinja sect, has recently been initiated into the temple. As his first task he is given the care of a young girl named Taniko who he escorts to her future husband. At first they somewhat despise each other but when they discover each other's true self, they fall in love. Sadly separated by her marriage to a cruel man, they meet years later to have a small time together that results in a child.

The child is quickly killed by her husband and thus begets a series of events that separates them and causes trouble for Taniko during her life. She bears another son to a favored samurai and when he is taken from her as well her husband seeks great revenge. He sends her to China to be a slave of the mongols.

Meanwhile Jebu has fought for a losing family in Japan. With the young son who is now a clan leader they go to China to make a name for themselves and gain more warriors to their cause. Over the years they eventually side with the Mongols and survive war after war. Sometimes only mere chance separates Jebu from Taniko.

The characters in this novel were very realistic. While they did venture on the side of being too good, they have some flaws that make them believable characters. I especially liked the character of Taniko as she was shown as a strong woman, despite the time. She used her femininity as power.

Shea's writing flows nicely and he includes some Japanese poetry as well which helps with imagery. It is written in the 3rd person and follows both Jebu and Taniko in their lives.

A wonderful read! Now I just need to get my hands on the second installment.

Copyright 1992
702 pages

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