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May 19, 2014

Book Review - Child of Vengeance by David Kirk

Set in pre-Shogunate Japan, where the samurai live with death and with honour in a brutal feudal society. A boy is abandoned by his samurai father and raised by his uncle, a monk. When his father returns, Bennosuke must either accept the way of the samurai or deny his birthright. Life is not really that simple however, as he learns. Musashi Benkei was a warrior of ancient legend, a huge man who wielded a staff like no other. The tale went that he held a bridge single-handedly in order for his Lord and his family to perform dignified seppuku [ritual suicide], slaying dozens of the enemy as they came at him. He died on his feet with his staff still in his hands, run through a score of times and riddled with arrows. Not one man had passed him, and both his, and his Lord's honour were assured. It was held as a paragon of a good death. Bennosuke wondered whether Musashi had ever hit a man until his skull burst open. But then, the slaughter was always so very clean in the old tales; evil men came to the hero, and then they were dead. …. Bennosuke looked upon the blood spattered on his kimono, and saw it had dried a dirty, muddy brown. From Shogun by James Clavell to The Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn, I have been drawn to tales of this period in Japanese history. The juxtaposition of profound thought, appreciation of beauty, physical and mental discipline, family loyalty & love, political chicanery and brutal violence can be very powerful. David Kirk adds lustre to the genre, although action predominates over philosophy. Wendy

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