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Sword of Honor

It’s been a while, I know. Sorry about that, classes have been running me ragged. I’ve got something a little different for you today, a novel review! The news and manga reviews will be returning shortly, but for today I’ll be taking a look a Sword of Honor by David Kirk!

Sword of HonorSword of Honor
by David Kirk
Doubleday, 464 pgs
Rating: Not Rated

David Kirk’s Sword of Honor is the second book is series about the life the legendary Japanese swordsman, Minamoto Musashi. Beginning shortly after the last, major battle of Japan’s Warring States Period in 1600, it depicts the feud between Miyamoto Musashi and the esteemed Yoshioka Sword School in Japan’s former capital of Kyoto.

The Musashi presented here is fairly different from the one I’ve seen in other media. He’s confused, unsure of himself at times and just attempting to muddle out his philosophy and ultimate goal in life. For much of the book he rages against the rigid lifestyle of Japanese society, aiming much of his anger at The Way. The Way within the book is basically the code by which everyone lives. It dictates how to interact with others, organizes a social hierarchy and even lays down the procedures for ritual suicide. The way he rails against it throughout the book makes him feel a bit more like a traditional Western protagonist who seeks to undo the status quo. Something that will hopefully connect with American readers.

One of the most noticeable things about the book is Kirk’s use of language and to give the text a detached and stand offish feel. Some folks might not like the coldness this produces, but I liked it. The emotional detachment is a perfect match for the Kirk’s version of Musashi’s Japan. It’s cold, staid and full of repression and rigid ritual and behavior.

Conversely, Kirk manages to bring Kyoto to life despite the aforementioned standoffishness, describing it’s bustling, crowded streets with such detail that it crafts a vivid picture of a living thriving metropolis. The amount of time spent on the city might seem a little odd at first, but over time it’s becomes obvious that Kyoto is as much as character in the novel as anyone else.

Perhaps the most interesting character isn’t Musashi but the Yoshioka samurai Akiyama. Initially sent out to hunt down Musashi for some perceived slight from years past, Akiyama starts out almost as a reflection of Musashi. Dedicated to The Way and the sword school he serves, Akiyama is haunted by the fact that his apparent mixed heritage will forever keep him from being fully accepted no matter his accomplishments. Kirk spends quite a bit of time developing Akiyama’s internal struggle and he was quite possibly my favorite character in the entire book by it’s end.

Sword of Honor was a pretty engaging read, though it did take a little time for me to warm to the style of David Kirk’s prose. Once I got past that it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable read that picked up more and more steam until its bloody, apocalyptic climax.

Sword of Honor will be available on November 3rd from Doubleday. Galley copy provided by the publisher.

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