Jade Palace Vendetta

Dale Furutani, Author William Morrow & Company $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-688-15818-7
The second installment in Furutani's samurai trilogy (following the Anthony Award-winning Death at the Crossroads) has a startlingly modern sensibility. As ronin Matsuyama Kaze follows the Tokaido Road in search of his beloved Lady's kidnapped nine-year-old daughter, he saves the merchant Hishigawa from a gang of bandits. The coarse but enigmatic merchant insists on repaying Kaze with a new sword and invites him to his home in Kamakura, where the merchant lives with Yuchan, his cherished young wife. But something is rotten in Hishigawa's sumptuous villa, and as Kaze acquaints himself with members of the staff, including the chief bodyguard, Enomoto, and the suspiciously powerful female ""head of household,"" Ando, he gradually discovers the depths of the merchant's depravity. Furutani names film director Kurosawa as ""an inspiration"" for this novel, and it shows. Every gesture--from Kaze's ""gently cupping"" his Lady's face as she dies, to the parrying of swords--is rendered with the unhurried care of a master craftsman. Even the novel's one truly surprising scene, when Kaze learns the secret of Yuchan's life in the Jade Palace, has a kind of visual poetry, horror and beauty nightmarishly juxtaposed. Like Kaze's miraculous new sword ""the Fly Cutter,"" Furutani's pen is ""light and lively,"" but capable of gross violence when necessary. Yet what makes this novel so poignant is that Kaze's Jedi-like purity and self-restraint seem outmoded even in 1603 Japan--a time in which violence, sex and commerce proliferate, and 50,000 ronin samurai roam the countryside. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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