It is the season of war.
As the plum blossom winds herald spring in the Empire of Wa, Initiate Brother Shuyun, spiritual advisor to Lord Shonto, the military governor of the northernmost province of Seh, receives a shocking message from the barbarian lands. The massive army of the Golden Khan is poised at their border. Forced to retreat south, Lord Shonto is caught between the pursuing barbarian hordes and his own hostile emperor’s Imperial Army.
Meanwhile, the beautiful young Lady Nishima again becomes involved in court intrigue as well as in a dangerous romantic liaison.
Even as this trap closes on Shonto and his allies, Brother Shuyun faces a crisis of his own. For in the same scroll that warned of the invasion was a sacred udumbara blossom, a sign his order has awaited for a thousand years, a sign that the Great Teacher has finally been reborn. And now it may fall to one young monk with extraordinary powers to save his empire.
©1992 Sean Russell (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Praise for Sean Russell: “This is perfectly plotted, beautifully written fantasy.” (Publishers Weekly on The One Kingdom)
True multitasking is "reading" a book while walking, running, kayaking, doing chores, gardening, driving or just drifting off to sleep.
The Initiate Brother is the first book in this series. As my review of that book states, I think these two books are better than Lord of the Rings. (I was just thinking that if I were only allowed to read 10 books over and over for the rest of my life "The Initiate Brother" and "Gatherer of Clouds" would be two do those 10).
If you have already read the first book I am pleased to tell you that this second book is even better. The events come together naturally without a hint that some writer is following a "plot." Everything about the way this book progresses makes me think that Sean Russell did not "write" these books, but rather he was able to visit an alternate universe where these characters reside and he simply recorded everything he saw and heard. This is the highest compliment I can give.
What I always want to know is "should I get this book on audible or the paper copy?" I have multiple copies of these two books in paperback but I always listen to this audio version. I prefer to listen to a novel when the reader does a nice job and when the story flows.
You see, I only prefer the paperback version of a novel when reading a book I do not really care about -- that way I can skip entire pages when necessary. But when reading a book like this, a book that I love, I prefer the audio because each word is a gift and each scene is something that I can vividly imagine as the narrator conveys the various characters at just the right pace.
Books like this one are best enjoyed on audio.
The book feels like a fable or fairytale. The course of many paths feels often predictable and ritualized, yet instead of feeling trite or constraining, this delivers a sense of rightness and wholeness.
This book is a nice continuation of the first, and overall, the story that Russell tells is very entertaining. I did feel a little let down in that I kept expecting some huge denouement, and while the story does wrap up nicely, I was expecting the main character to perform some otherwordly feat(s). Russell built him up so much, but maybe that was the point, while everyone around Shuyun expects great things from him, ultimately I feel like he is only looking for enlightenment, which he ultimately finds.
One other thing that I was confused about is the missing scrolls. Maybe I missed it somewhere in the reading, but I don't feel like Russell ever told us where the scrolls went. Did I just miss it? Possibly.
Overall, Alexander's narration was pretty good, although he does have a few voices that just don't work that well (like the one that sounds eerily like Yoda, yikes, it was not good).
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