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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: ARC of Yamada Monogatari Demon Hunter

To start: if you remember from my blog's very first post, I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy. Basically, this means that I got the book for free and agreed to give my honest review! My copy was a Kindle copy from NetGalley.

If you're a fan of Japanese fairy tales, if you're fascinated by the pre-samurai Japan, if you're into asian dramas, you need to pick this book up when it releases in February. It is one of those books where the author's narrative helps you visualize exactly what is happening without being overly wordy or gaudily describing every minute detail. Instead you get this rich portrait, a mental movie, as you're reading.

Yamada no Goji is an impoverished nobleman. His lineage is that of a bastard, but he is still declared noble because his father recognized him. Through a series of short stories, short little glimpses into Yamada no Goji's life, you learn a little more each time. He has a thorough knowledge of ghosts, demons, etc., and because of his time at court, and association with Princess Teiko, his name is known: both for his discretion and his successes.

He is by no means rich, and when he gets paid, it seems obvious he has a great love for sake. As you would expect from someone known as a demon hunter, he has some unsavory friends/acquaintances whose services are useful, especially that of the priest, Kenji. The characters are incredibly human: there is no perfection other than their imperfections. They are flawed as human beings are, driven by greed, by lust, by revenge, by survival.

The narrative voice at first sounds a bit odd, but then becomes quite comfortable. I myself am half-asian and I found that the wording, or certain turning of phrases, reminded me a lot of my late grandmother's English. It isn't a comical broken english, but rather a more poetic way of phrasing.

Each story has action, history, and fantastic interaction. As a whole, it seems thoroughly researched (not that I'm an expert on feudal Japan, but it seems to correlate to other stories and movies I've seen), and ... I think the only word to describe it is cinematic! It's not picturesque, it's cinematic. The stories are encompassing, sweeping, and emotion-twinging.

It's not a perfect book: I didn't like how many of the very few female characters were cunning or deceitful or conniving, even if they had good intentions (for their family's betterment). It tends to come across as just the stereotypical "woman's wiles" kind of pigeonhole. Overall, I would say that despite the historical setting, this book had more of an urban fantasy feel: it must be that "hunting" aspect.

This was a good read. I normally am not a fan of short stories, but I think the reason why I liked this one so much was that it focused around one character, I could put it down after finishing one story and come right back to it, eager for the next adventure.

It releases February 6, 2013. Click on the pic and it should take you to the page. No, I'm not one of those amazon people that get paid to promote; I just wanted to make it easier for you to find it! :) Happy reading!