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A bit of background if I may, before I tell you more about the plot. The story is set in medieval Japan. Japan at that time was ruled by successions of shoguns which imposed a strict class system with the samurai (warriors) at the top (a sort of feudalism system). Under the shoguns were lords with the title of daimyo .The Samurai were warriors, the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan. Samurai were supposed to lead their lives according to the ethical code of bushido ("the way of the warrior"). They were vassals to the daimyo while the daimyo were vessels to the Shoguns. Some of Samurai described in this book were far from being honorable and resembled simple cut throat assassins. But let's start from the beginning.
This is the story of Mineko, a young orphan Japanese girl, who becomes a slave to some evil band of samurai. This book tells her story from her earlier years till she grows up and manages to embark on a quest of vengeance. The family of Mineko was brutally slaughtered in cold blood by Mercenaries band of Samurai. The reasons for the attack weren't clear at first. Don't worry, all was made perfectly clear toward the end of the book and it left me openmouthed.
Mineko and her sister are the only survivors and they are whisked away to the assassins' gloomy hideaway. Mineko is then getting separated from her sister and has to endure life as a slave, life full of psychical and verbal abuse. Did I mention that Mineko was only 6 years old?? My son is around that age and I had a difficult time reading the scenes about beatings and all the other abuse the heroin suffered at the hands of her captors. Fortunately, that was not all the book was about.
Mineko learns to survive in a world gone mad and only two things keep her alive: the raging desire to avenge her family and thoughts of her sister who may or may not come back to save her from life of suffering and abuse. As her story unfolds, the reader learns to admire her and root for her. When Yasuo, a young samurai man, enters the picture the life of Mineko changes for the best. A ray of hope starts to enlighten otherwise a bleak world. Mineko starts to feel first buds of love and her trials continue with an unexpected twist. One follows her quest of vengeance with a bated breath since "Mineko will settle for nothing less than extreme vengeance."
RG Dillon weaves a captivating story that draws the reader in from the very first lines and pulls his heart strings to boot. The reader feels a broad range of feelings starting with grief and finishing with hope. Be forewarned that this book isn't for the faint of heart nor is it appropriate for young adult readers due to the gory and violent content in it. Some scenes were very difficult for me to read, especially the scenes where the protagonist was physical abused. Often I had to put the book down and take a few deep breaths after reading an especially violent scene.
Despite that, I decided to rate it 4 out of 4 stars. The author managed to pull me into the story and made me feel part of the action. Also I was glad to read a book in which its main protagonist is a woman and a strong one at that. Fate controlled Mineko at first and then she took control of her fate and I liked that.
The plot was interesting and the characters made me feel involved with them. I was invested in the story and cared about the heroin. The writing is simple but compelling and it brought to life the samurai lifestyle. I sympathized with the heroin and could understand her actions. I rooted for her, cried for her even and at some point wanted to kill the murderous band myself. I often found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while reading some scenes. One can't but take the protagonist into his heart and feel for her. She was almost more real to me than the mundane world. The reading was an emotional, and draining at times, experience, but well worth it.
The end was memorable and blow mind and caught me by surprise. Yes, there are some difficult passages in the book, but the overall message emerging from it is the enormous capacity of the human spirit to rise intact from difficult situations. Kudos for the author for making me to feel that strongly about the book!
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