Cower not, fierce reader! This fine day we have a premiere book from a new author at Castalia House, and another departure from fantasy and science fiction we can share with normal folk. Late, last week Vox Day called for reviewers, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen.Like most works from Castalia House, crimes against Social Justice are indeed the order of the day!
Firstly, the primary source of all the crimes against SocJus: the book is set in 16th century Japan, and not in a revisionist manner. The author is aware of the culture, its virtues and vices, and keeps his story and his characters well within these expectations. And in many ways, this is nearly as pervasive as if the book were Catholic or Amish.
There are clear societal differences between men and women. Each knows their roles, and acts accordingly. Furthermore, there is also the class system of fuedal Japan, where samurai are honored, even in poverty, and there is expected to be as much honor in the farmer as in the great warrior.
This book also has the Japanese fixation on being honorable, which of course, the West has largely lost. This leads to many points of choices taken merely for being right, and not being the best, most expedient, or easiest. This includes raids, deception, and more, as each situation presents chances to act with honor or not.
In many ways, this book is difficult for me to review. I do not consider myself well versed in Japanese history, and only have a passing acquaintance with the culture, though perhaps more than most people. It does not compare analogously to what I normally cover, but is well steeped in similar themes, and this comes from not being Western.
The best comparison I can make is that most of the the books I cover are akin to Western painting traditions, steeped in matters of color, line, and proportion. Then, go visit an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints. They are gorgeous, and balanced, and incredibly well done. The sparseness of the work does as much as any element in the beauty of the work, and yet, it is difficult to express.
There is no wasted word, no moment out of balance, and no scene unneeded or too long. If an author wishes to learn about pacing, this book is well worth the study, as the tale moves, but only when it needs to, and only as much as it needs. Honestly, when this becomes physically available, I might buy two, just to have one on hand to loan to someone I can't get to read SFF, just to show what Castalia House is about. 9 of 10 fell deeds.
When you play Social Justice, the world loses.