The Shogun’s Daughter by Laura Joh Rowland
Book #17 in the Sano Ichiro Novels series
E-book, ARC, 337 pages
September 17, 2013
Genre: Historical mystery
Source: Received from publisher for review as part of HFVBT tour – via Netgalley
“Japan, 1704. In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse. Smallpox pustules cover her face. Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”
The death of the Shogun's daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun's favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.
Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun's son, believing it's more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime's death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.
Laura Joh Rowland's thrilling series set in Feudal Japan is as gripping and entertaining as ever.”
If this is what historical fiction set in Japan looks like, I’m in! I have always been hesitant to read novels set in Asia because the culture, especially in the historical sense, is very foreign to me and there is a lot that I do not really understand going into it. I was encouraged by this novel because the blurb reads like an adventure/thriller and that would help to keep it from being too mired in a culture I am very unfamiliar with. There were moments where I wasn’t sure what the characters were talking about or doing, like adding –san– sometimes to the end of someone’s name, but for the most part it was fairly easy to understand (or look up online). I found that the mystery kept the story moving and that the culture of feudal Japan was seamlessly woven throughout. I can say that I learned a lot about Japan and am intrigued about this era.
In many historical mystery type novels the mystery plot can tend to be rather thin and leave much to be desired or is too easy to figure out. In the case of The Shogun’s Daughter, we are given several viable suspects, and you might come up with some guesses, but it certainly wasn’t an obvious solution – which I very much enjoyed.
Although this is the 17th book in the series (of which I haven’t read any of the back list) I didn’t feel lost at all. There are certainly times that I can pin-point where I know a character or event is referencing something that must have happened in earlier novels, but you were always given enough information that it didn’t matter to your understanding. One such place is the relationship between Yanagisawa and Sano – you know a lot has happened between them to get them to the deep state of enmity that they are at now. I have a strong feeling that you can probably read most of the books in the series out of order – however reading chronologically will help with a deeper understanding of the characters.
Author Laura Joh Rowland also has written many other books in the Sano Ichiro series – you can find the complete list here. You can visit Rowland’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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