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Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein {4.5 Stars}

If you like your fantasy subtle and have an interest in Japanese culture, both modern and historical, then Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein might be a book that you will enjoy.  The book alternates between large sections of urban and historical fantasy, following the paths of several samurai swords, created by a legendary, master swordsman in Medieval Japan.  These swords became cursed or blessed and affect the lives of the people who possess them … and sometimes, they create waves that may nudge the course of whole countries.

The magical aspect of the swords is so ephemeral during the early part of the book that it seems to be mere superstition or legend to the main character, a Japanese police detective who follows hard evidence and bucks a system and culture that constantly throws up barriers to a woman trying to be taken seriously in a “man’s job”.  But as coincidences mount … and a few surprises lend credence to the tales of the old scholar whose sword looks to be a target for theft … both the detective and the reader finally realize that the Fated Blades really do possess incredibly strong magic.

Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein {4.5 Stars}

Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein (The Fated Blades #1)
Published by Roc on January 10, 2012
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Page Length: 468 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.

4.5 Stars

Strengths:

  • I really love the main character.  As a woman in a man’s profession, many of Mariko’s struggles to be taken seriously … and to not let the doubt of those around her seep into her own mind to become self-doubt … really rang true.  And the fact that she pushes herself to be twice as good as anyone else in her department while getting the worst assignments was a situation that I could identify with.  She’s strong but she’s not perfect, and the author lets us into her head to see the anger and frustration she experiences – and her plans and strategies to succeed despite the barriers in front of her.
  • The secondary characters are also – generally – well crafted and interesting.  Mariko’s sister, and their complicated relationship, seems realistic and becomes a major motivation for some of Mariko’s choices and decisions as the story progresses.  And her relationship with the professor whose sword is at risk grows steadily from that of potential victim to teacher smoothly and realistically.  Professor Yamada ends up being the sort of sensei many of us wish would pop up mysteriously in our lives.
  • In many warrior cultures, master weapons are thought to possess their own spirits and destiny.  Bein takes this idea, fleshes it out, and builds a convincing thriller around what might happen in the modern world if such magic existed.  It is so convincingly done that you begin to look at the unusual twists and coincidences of history and begin to wonder.
  • There are plenty of twists and turns and surprises in store as the story of the legendary swords is revealed, running through late Medieval history to the present day, intersecting with drug and gang activity in the city of Tokyo.  It was a book that kept me turning pages to find out what happens next!!

Weaknesses:

  • Readers without an interest in Japan, swords, or Bushido might – like my husband – hit the historical section and set the book aside.  While there is a glossary in the back, some of the Japanese terms and nuances of samurai culture can bog down someone who was expecting an urban fantasy or a procedural police drama.
  • The sexist police captain was a bit over the top, although in the end, his attitude and actions served to tie up some of the loose ends and bring closure to one of the threads of the storyline.

Summary:

I think Steve Bein has done a masterful job of pulling together multiple genres to create an engaging thriller in a series that I want to continue reading.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Barbara

 Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

© 2015, Barbara. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Another read right up my alley! (I <3 all things Japanese.) Will definitely have to look for this one soon. Thanks for another great rec! :)
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