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“Is it the cuckoo that beckons us to part on this shimmering summer eve?” said the sixty-one-year-old lord of Kitanosho castle to his beleaguered castle defenders. A sea of grimfaced warriors listened to their lord's death poem recital as he prepared himself for death. His wife, the lady Oichi no kata, who stood by his side, bowed before her husband, and recited for the benefit of those assembled, her death poem.
David Klayson has brought us yet again, an epic tale set in the turbulent era of sixteenth-century Japan. The sequel to An Age of War and Tea, The Rise and Fall of Ishida Mitsunari Book 2 starts off with a moving and colorful image of a death poem being recited.
Japan is heavy with tradition and this book paints a stunning picture of how it was most likely carried out all those years ago. We begin the story with the 61-year-old Shibata Katsuie as he prepares for his death, removing his heavy armor and dying with dignity. Asked to surrender, he and his wife will lay down their lives to protect their people. But his defiant commanders do not wish to go down without a fight. And so a chorus of “To the death!” rings out in the hall.
As they enjoy one last banquet, preparing for the inevitable fight of their lives, we are then taken back to a year prior. Hideyoshi had taken it upon himself to avenge the betrayal and death of his master, Lord Nobunaga, by his general, Akechi Mitsuhide. We learn of battles fought by generations of proud people, of sons vying for a throne, and chaos that appears from battles for control.
Ishida Mitsunari was a Japanese samurai and military commander of the late Sengoku period of Japan. He is probably best remembered as the commander of the Western army in the Battle of Sekigahara following the Azuchi–Momoyama period of the 16th century.
The author gives us an immersive story full of power struggles, the full richness of the ancient history of Japan, and life-changing secrets of high stakes gambles the characters must overcome. This is historical fiction at its finest, as you will forget you’re only reading it about it and not actually there living it, as you immerse yourself in the paged.
Osaka: Spring /Summer
The Fifteenth Day of the Fifth month: Tensho Thirteen (1585)
The breaking dawn over Mount Kongo, just south of Osaka, revealed a landscape shrouded
in mist. And as the first rays of the sun appeared over the terraced rice fields, the men of the
nearby village of Chihaya gathered and waited patiently for the mist to lift. Soon they
would scale the mountain slopes and open the sluice gates holding back the mountain
runoff to flood the terraces below. The women of the village also stood ready with straw
baskets of seed rice on their backs. Once the flooding of the terraces was complete, they
would begin the planting of the season’s rice crop.
Beautifully written, the characters are rich and strong, believable, and relatable in their motivations. The development of the characters as they grow throughout their arc is also so poignant and believable. The story is great at keeping continuity, both with itself and with the history of the time. You can tell a great deal of research went into the history and the customs of Japan, both then and now, when it comes to the crafting of this unique story.
Another aspect I really enjoyed is how exciting and engaging it is. There is nothing boring about this story! It’s told in such a way that you keep turning the pages, desperate to see what will happen next. You ride the waves of ups and downs with the characters, and root for your favorites. Even the ones you may not like as much, you can’t help but hang onto each word of their story, waiting to see what will happen next. It does a true justice to the samurai and customs of the time, as well.
It was only when Ieyasu had returned to the castle and had some sake and a light meal did he send for his visitor, a Shinobi scout.
“This is Ita Sugo,” said Ieyasu, introducing the visitor to his dinner companion,
Honda Tadakatsu, lord of the Otaki Domain, and now his close adviser and confidant. “He
is shinobi, from Hanzo Hattori’s branch of the Iga clan.” Tadakatsu was five years younger
than Ieyasu and already his thick dark beard was flecked with streaks of grey. Ieyasu
believed the gods favoured Tadakatsu, for in the course of his life he took part in fifty-seven battles, surviving every one without a scratch.
“Now Sugo, what news do you bring?” said Ieyasu as he adjusted his position on
the cushion, and motioned Tadakatsu to pour him a bowl of sake.
“My lord. It is as you expected. Fushimi has fallen,” said Sugo.
Ishida’s forces?” queried Ieyasu.
“Yes, my lord. A force of forty thousand led by Kobayakawa Hideaki. The garrison,
although vastly outnumbered, did well to hold them off for ten days. Sadly, they were
betrayed from within. One of Fushimi’s commanders set fire to the castle's main Tenshu,
which soon spread to the adjacent buildings,” said Sugo.
Another favorite for me is how the dialogue is written. It’s smooth, natural, and doesn’t pull you out of the story. It’s not full of “he said” and “she said” statements. From quiet conversations to exciting battles, the dialogue is handled splendidly.
All in all, a great historical fiction about 16th century Japan. Intriguing and fun to read with a satisfying conclusion. If you’re interested in the Mitsunari dynasty, Japanese history, or just want an engrossing new story to read, I highly recommend Kampaku.
“Kampaku” by David Klayson receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
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