©2007 Laura Joh Rowland; (P)2008 Recorded Books,LLC
I was worried about reading a book by a non-Japanese author, but this was unfounded. The book is very Japanese. Another reviewer said "no one talks like that", but actually, upper class courtly Japanese would seem very stilted in English. And the narrator, who is probably a native speaker, pronounces Japanese names beautifully. This book reminded me of the beautiful Japanese countryside, and makes me want to go back--this time to Hokkaido. I rated it 4 stars because nothing compares to Tales of the Otori...
Well, I guess it had to happen. After one year of listening to audible titles, I finally found one that I couldn't stand. The characters and dialogue were basic beyond belief. The action could have been plotted better by a pre-schooler. Being a ready who enjoys fantasy and crime, I didn't mind the mix of spells and possession, but what really got to me was how the action / dialogue seemed jumpy, wooden and just totally unbelievable. No one talks like that!
Narrator was okay, although he really said the Japanese names fast. It took me about an hour to learn who was who. Imagine the chef on Iron Chef - Masahiro Morimo - well, the narrator would have pronouced that out in about a 1/2 second. Nice male voices, although his women's voices were just annoying and made me cringe.
Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
I was able to only get through about 2 hours of this book. It's hard to figure out why it was even written and why the author thought this was a good story. Who set off 500 years ago in a boat in the middle of winter to a place no one ever goes, inhabited by so-called "barbarians", with absolutely no clues or leads, looking for a child who was allegedly kidnapped months before by enemies? Crimes today are harder to solve after the "First 48" house. What "gangster" in a male-dominated society has a nervous breakdown following the murder of his golddigger mistress in an era when men had a kazillion wives and concubines? The book is named for that mistress, a woman described as a "whore", who slept with the whole village, and "rode (one conquest) like a horse". This is more like a very bad Danielle Steele trying to write about Samurai warriors. "Thrilling"? I don't thinks so. There's no excitement, suspense or even a sense of intimate connection between the main characters. The descriptions of the characters and places aren't well-developed so you forget that the story takes place in the 1600's. The dialogue is so contemporary that I kept waiting for someone to jump into a Ford Explorer, answer his cell phone, or send a fax. The narrator adds nothing to this mess. Besides being flat and uninspiring, he blows through Japanese names like a person who learned the language using a Rosette Stone program. He brought none of his heritage to the narration. I'm glad I only paid $4.95 for this book during one of Audible's sales. But even that was money wasted.
I listen to books when I'm at work or doing chores. I prefer history and fantasy. My favorite audio book is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
I've read these fake Japanese books before and found them good enough. I don't mind the stiff way Japanese translates into English. However that does excuse the stiffness of this book in general. There's absolutely no substance to the characters or story; something the author tries to hide with meaningless action scenes one after the other. About two hours into this book I had to turn it off because time actually seemed to be passing slower with it playing.
long commute=audible reading time
I read a lot of Japanese historical fiction, this story seemed light on the Japanese elements.
It was great to explore the Anu and northern Japan, but didn't pack as much cultural insight as Lian Hearn's series (highly rated) or Barry Eisler's "Rain" Character.
Say something about yourself!
I've listened to other books in this series and enjoyed them. But none were read by this narrator. He destroys the story. There may be value to the story, but with this reader it isn't worth listening to. He manages to make his Japanese characters sound like East Coast Jersey thugs. I wasn't able to finish it. Don't waste your credit.
In the 16 hundreds when this story took place your terminology is all wrong for the period. Worst story ever don't waste your credit long drawn out cumbersome and confusing.
I read Laura Joh Rowland's second book first so I thought I'd give her first book a try. This book had a pretty good plot but the language didn't sound Japanese enough. For example, would a Japanese guard really say "Go ahead. It's your funeral." That type of slang was offputting to me. If you like mysteries, it's still pretty good. I'd recommend it.
The book gave some interesting information on Japan's Ainu minority, but the plot was contrived and the characters wooden. The spooky element did not seem convincing on its own terms. The narrator seemed to know Japanese pronunciation well, but did less well with English; he consistently said "dint" for "didn't," for example.
This is the latest title in a series, I believe. I might try an early volume to see if the characters and plot are fresher.
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