I was pretty sure I was going to give this book 4 stars, and then the last chapter and epilogue happened. The story went to a whole new level for me, so here we are at 5 stars.
I don’t usually go into plot summary, but I’ll say that this story has 4 major parts. First, we see the horrifically cruel life that 6-year-old Mineko is forced into when Samurai kill her family and take her and her sister as slaves. This first part may be a little too violent for some readers, but the author never goes too far, and he does an excellent job of establishing your unwavering sympathy for Mineko. She has moments of relief that are sweet (like with the dogs, her only friends), and these show that she is a strong character despite the abuse she suffers and that she manages to hold onto some form of hope.
Then enters Yasuo, the love interest. I was worried at first that this was headed in a “white knight” direction, but the focus remains on Mineko’s own quest for justice and Yasuo is just a wonderful, loving support who of course helps her greatly but lets her choose her own path. Mineko’s recuperation from her abuse quickly slides into training with “Uncle.” This relationship is actually my favorite in the book. They quickly become like father and daughter, and his love and respect help her become the strong woman you always hoped she would be.
By the time Mineko seeks out her vengeance, you’re quite ready for some action and rooting for her, though with a bit of nervousness as to the outcome. Again, there is a lot of violence in this part, but Mineko’s reason for her actions never wavers, and the author again does a good job of not being over-the-top.
Then, as I said, there’s the ending. I really didn’t see the twist(s?) coming, and it knocked the book into a solid 5 for me.
Some readers may prefer shorter paragraphs, less description, and more dialogue, and there were points where I would agree. But the style of writing feels right for the historical setting and tone used. The language is often quite beautiful, but it’s never used to over-glorify the violence. This is also one of the “cleanest” editing jobs I’ve come across in a long time. The story itself gets stronger as it goes, much like Mineko, and I highly recommend it.
See it on Amazon!