Cloud of Sparrows

 
9780091794545: Cloud of Sparrows

Emily Gibson has come to Japan as a missionary, to start a new life. In America her beauty drove men wild. In Japan she possesses no beauty at all. Matthew Stark speaks like a missionary but wears a pistol like a gunslinger. Emily has come to Japan to bury her past, Stark has come to kill his. It is 1861 and after two centuries of isolation Japan has been forced to open its doors. A whole way of life is about to die. Lord Genji of the Akoaka Clan knows this. Blessed with his family's power of prophecy he has foreseen that his and Japan's fate lie in the hands of outsiders. But this knowledge is dangerous to many powerful men, and deadly for Genji. As intrigue mounts and the city of Edo and the Shogun's palace are smashed by foreign ships, Genji plans his escape to his ancestral home, the Cloud of Sparrows. With him travel Emily and Stark, and Heiko, his beautiful geisha and a deadly spy. However, the road is long and there are many places along the way for a samurai to attack and for Genji to die.

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Review:

Cloud of Sparrows slings an impressive amount of full-blooded plot material at us along with an intelligent weighing out of historical fact. Young Lord Genji is a samurai whose blood feuds with the Shogun go back centuries--his family have predictive powers that have shown him that his future lies in forming alliances with the incoming Americans. Emily is a young missionary who considers Japan to be a place where her looks will be considered hideous and she will be free of male attention; Heiko is the most beautiful geisha of her generation, and also a ninja assassin who has fallen in love with her prospective victim, Genji. And Stark is a gunslinger posing as missionary who has come to Japan to find a man he has sworn to kill.

The strength of all this lies, in part, in the fact that both sets of characters are as exotic to us as they are to each other--Takashi Matsuoka is wittily smart about how much things change in a century and a half. He also writes brilliantly and excitingly when describing a scene of battle, a gun or sword duel. This is a startlingly good debut. --Roz Kaveney

Review:

A splendid new novel set in Japan and the 19th century world of samurai, geishas, ninjas and Zen masters. Emily Gibson is a missionary, who together with her fianc Zephaniah Cromwell, is here to start a new life and make as many converts as possible. With them is Matthew Stark, nominally a missionary, but a man who always carries a pistol. Zephaniah is wounded by a bullet meant for Lord Genji of the Akoaka Clan. Blessed with the power of prophecy, Genji foresees that Japan's future will lie in the hands of foreigners, so he plans to escape to his ancestral home, the Cloud of Sparrows, and with him travel Emily, Stark and his beautiful geisha, a spy. It is redolent of the feel of Japan at that time, and has already been sold for $1m as a film. Hugely readable.

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Takashi Matsuoka
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Matsuoka, Takashi
Published by Hutchinson (2003)
ISBN 10: 0091794544 ISBN 13: 9780091794545
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