I was hoping for the beautiful imagery that was brought to life by a great narrator in a book like Across the Nightingale Floor, but I was disappointed. This is an OK book but not one I would move to the top of someone’s must read list. Again this wasn’t bad it was just OK.
I have tried getting past the first two hours of this book about six times now and can't make it. The lack of plot moving action and the numerous characters bogged me down and I lost interest early into this novel. I got this as I enjoyed the sound of Autumn Bridge and then realized this book came first so I purchased that. I don't even want to attempt getting Autumn Bridge after the disappointment of this novel. If you're looking for a good read, check out the Otori series.
I've given this dreaful book two stars because the author clearly put a lot of work into it. Unfortunately, it was to no avail -- in terms of quality it doesn't really deserve even one star.
To start with, if you want to introduce that many characters in such a short time you'd better be pretty sure that you're Tolstoy, otherwise you just have a list of names. And a list of names does not a novel make.
Then we have Japan and the fascinating Japanese people. Well, actually, we don't. Not even a little bit. Even the old pulp master James Clavell took some trouble to get into the Japanese psyche and the driving forces behind it and Japanese history. Here we just have cardboard cutouts.
Alas, this also holds true for the plot. Plod plod plod blood plod plod blod kiss plod plod plod missionaries. All very tedious.
To round it all off you have not even pedestrian narration by a reader who would clearly be better off recording special offer announcements for a big discount store.
That's the sound of the wooden characters and the sound of my player after struggling through the first 30 minutes. I was hoping it would be as enjoyable as Lian Hearn's trilogy but it wasn't even close.
Grover Gardner is probably one of my favorite narrators of all time so I was delighted to see that he had narrated this. A wonderful performance as always, in my opinion.
With regards to the book, the comparisons with Shogun are apt in ways, even if this feels much more modern (and shall we say concise) but a more appropriate comparison might be Cavell's own follow up to Shogun, Gaijin, which, I'm afraid to say, is in places absolutely wretched, filled with mostly unlikable characters, is glacial in pace, and too often is positively repellant. Sparrow in turn feels much more brisk and interesting, with characters that are mostly likable but if not are at least interesting. It feels less like pure historical fiction than Shogun and Gaijin, perhaps, but the trade off in my opinion doesn't stop Sparrows from being vastly more enjoyable on the whole.
Fear is the mind Killer, so Face Your Fear
It truly embraced Japanese culture
The intrigue that goes on below the surface in Japan
I hope more books from Takashi Matsuoka come to Audible
The premise in "Cloud of Sparrows" was broad and beautifully realized. Main characters were complex and their plight was exciting. It had a cinematic feeling. The reader was very good. The second book, "Autumn Bridge" was good but not quite as thoroughly successful. I enjoyed the books of the Otori but I felt this was better.