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A Different Sort of Time Travel - an Editorial Review of "Tangled Spirits"

Book Blurb:

Tangled Spirits offers a unique insight into the world of 10th century Japan, and one that held me spellbound with its intriguing main characters and sense of danger.” M J Porter, best-selling author of the historical fiction series Eagles of Mercia

“I have huge admiration for the way Kate Shanahan has woven her fictional story into known history to create a fabulous tapestry of a novel.” Lynn Bryant, author of The Peninsular War Saga

Journey to the imperial court of Japan as Kate Shanahan skillfully blends fictional and historical figures and events into a time-slip tale of intrigue, personal sacrifice, and a friendship that spans a thousand years.

Two spirits. One body. It’s harder than it looks.

2019: Anxious and insecure, college student Mina Cooper wants to change her life, to change herself, but she gets more change than she bargains for when her spirit is pulled into the past and into someone else’ body - in 10th century Japan. And now she has a lot more to be anxious about. Like exorcism. And bandits. And chaotic magic by an inexperienced shaman.

999: Desperately lonely after her mother and sister die in an epidemic, aspiring shaman Lady Masako attempts to call her mother back from the spirit world, but gets possessed by Mina instead.

After a struggle for control and a failed exorcism, the two spirits agree to cooperate long enough to get help from the Royal Astrologer, the only person powerful enough to send Mina home.

But his help comes at a cost. And if Mina doesn't pay it, she risks her spirit fusing with Masako’s. And if that happens, she’ll never get home.

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Author Bio:

Kate V. Shanahan received her MA in Asian Studies from the University of Michigan, taught English in Sapporo, Japan, and enjoyed a long career with a Japanese company in Ohio as a human resources manager, ethics officer, and new model project leader, among other roles. Tangled Spirits is her debut novel.

Visit Kate's website to read her blog at

Editorial Review:

The friendship effort-to-reward ratio just didn't work for me. Friends move away when you needed them most, or else they joined in a clique you weren't welcome in, or they stressed you out with their own anxiety issues. Not that boyfriends were much better, but I never had trouble finding one.

Tangled Spirits by Kate Shanahan is proof positive that a historical novel can teach. For anyone unfamiliar with court life in ancient 10th century Japan, the intricacies and delicate balance of life, especially for a woman, not to mention the nuances of relationships and religion in directing the course of a person's life... well, then this is the book to read. While staying true to her theme – that of friendship – Shanahan manages to deliver a very interesting story while providing a connection to a modern reader with the same issues and inherent problems young people have suffered throughout time. Acceptance, friendship, gossip, mean girls, trust, love, and family all are very recognizable themes throughout this book – and all rolled up in a very clever time travel package.

Knowledge used to be power. Now knowledge created anxiety.

Mina is a young girl whose mind is swarming with the day-to-day issues of boyfriend problems, disappointment in friendships, family issues, social media tidal waves, and trying to find her own way in the world. When she takes some college courses in Japanese history, falling in love with a particular book called The Pillow Book, the book she refers to as the first “blogging” book, she begins to see that young girls in the 10th century dealt with many of the same problems as her modern day. Her interests in Japanese history leads her overseas, and after her boyfriend shows his true colors, she finds herself in close company with another young man, Keiko, who takes her on a journey to a secret and sacred spot in Japan. While Mina thinks this is just coincidence that they “run” into each other, it seems fate might have different plans for her. In just a single moment of meditation at this sacred spot, Mina is sucked into the past and into the body of a young girl named Masako.

The Pillow Book. How was that even possible? A lady-in-waiting at the imperial court of tenth century Japan couldn't have anything in common with an anxious American college student. Yet, when I read Sei's lists of frustrating, annoying, and depressing things, I felt like I knew her.

Now, the struggle takes on a whole different meaning as Mina, desperate to get back home and back to her own body, is forced to try and make friends with the young girl. She becomes her internal voice and together they must reach a common goal – one which will benefit Masako and Mina at the same time. Masako is from a rural community and has very few prospects in her life, not to mention very little which might allow her to rise in any position in her life. Mina changes everything for her as she is able to provide Masako with information (of which many think she is possessed) but since this sort of skill is very highly prized by the Emperor and the Empress, Masako's father soon arranges for her to travel to see the Emperor's priest to get rid of the “spirit” inside her.

If Sei left Sadako's court now, her book would be forgotten in history. Literature keeps memories alive. Without The Pillow Book, no one would remember Sadako except as a minor character in Michinaga's regency. I was merely keeping history on its course.

This journey transforms the two girls as they learn to work together, to help others, such as the Empress, as well as Sei Shonagon, the authoress of The Pillow Book, while facing political unrest, pandemics, lost love, mean girls, gossip, and an uncertain future for them both. This book is rich with historical research mingled into the storyline, and the narrative is quite clever and well-developed. The ultimate goals for both girls, that of finding a future in a time when a woman's prospects were virtually nil, of finding themselves, and learning about the true meaning of friendship makes this more than a time travel book, it is a lesson in the sameness of humanity throughout time. A great book for young readers, especially young girls, but the author manages to stretch past this particular audience and make it relevant for a wider audience. In all, a very enjoyable and educational read.

Over the next few days I tried to adjust to modern life. Spirit separation and time travel gave me jet lag and culture shock rolled into one giant, disorienting package. Was I a year older? I felt older. More mature. Wiser. And I hurt inside, all the time, but not in any way I could medicate. Heartache. Soul-ache.


Tangled Spirits” by Kate Shanahan receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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