This book is the finalist for Qwillery’s grouping!
Lily was born in the year of the Tiger, and it’s negatively affected her throughout her life. In this world, the year you’re born into has a huge effect on your personality. People more or less follow the personality types of their birth years – with Tigers being quick to anger, passionate, and outspoken. These aren’t good traits for a woman in this time period (13th century) and often times girls born in the year of the Tiger are given away. Lily’s father decides to keep her, and she’s ended up the social outcast of society.
She loves hunting in the woods, and one day finds a wounded lord in the forest who’s about to die. There are enemies all around them and they have to get him back to the village before the enemy soldiers find them.
But, the enemy samurai do find them and all looks lost until Lily starts to sing the old Jindo songs her mother taught her. Jindoism has been outlawed by the emperor, with Buddhism being the only allowed religion in Japan. Singing these songs could be a death sentence for her, but she has no choice.
The Jindo songs summon the Kami, or spirits of this world. The Whispering Brook, the spirit her mother often worshipped, comes to her aide in the woods and helps her and the lord defeat the enemy samurai.
After returning the Lord, Ashikigara, to the village she’s summoned back to the Great House to spend the night with the Lord – he’s ill after being injured in the woods and wouldn’t calm down until Lily arrived.
The village is attacked again by the pretender-emperors men, and Lily gets recruited by the lord to help defend against them – even though she doesn’t want anything to do with that and just wants to go home.
Final Score: 7/10
Lily is the main character of the story, and like her birth years animal suggests – she’s feisty and willful. Even after her father tells her repeatedly not to go into the woods without his permission she does it anyway, time and time again getting into trouble. She speaks out of turn a lot even around nobles and is the ugly duckling of the village. She has twin sisters and a little brother – one of the sisters is nice to her but her sister, Flower, is continuously unkind. She’s 17, but most girls in her village who have hit 16 have already gotten married or begun an apprenticeship – she’s done neither because nobody would take her on for either role. Despite her willfulness and disobedient nature she has an inner desire to do well but doesn’t seem to be able to help herself sometimes.
The love interest and romance in this story was very different, in the blurb I read for the book it said it was a gender-bending romance, and I would say that this is a legit LGBT romance.
Final Score: 7/10
I really loved the atmosphere in this book, I’ve never read a book set in ancient Japan before and since most of the battles and action took place in the woods it made for a very mysterious and fantasy like backdrop. The woods are thick and Lily can only see flashes of color moving through the misty forest as enemy samurai are coming in for the attack.
Jindoism has been outlawed in favor of Buddhism, and the pretender emperor is trying to change that – being a Jindoist himself. Jindoists believe in the spirits, or Kami, of nature – with everything even rocks having spirits of some kind. Singing the ancient songs can summon the kami and those strong enough can channel their power.
The village setting is small, most people are poor and living in huts with hunger being commonplace, especially in the Spring. The Headman will come down to the village on orders from the Great House to recruit people to work in the rice paddies when needed.
Samurais are totally a thing which was neat, I’ve never read a fantasy story with samurais in it before.
Yurei are spirits that are left behind from people who were particularly passionate about something, one of them visits her while she’s at the Great House tending to the lord after his injuries.
Final Score: 8/10
The pace was pretty steady up until the end where it picks up a bit. This wasn’t a book with a ton of action at the beginning but theres’ more of it towards the end. I got through it pretty quickly, but it’s also a short book.
The tone was hard to pinpoint, there’s blood and violence and Lily loses some people she cares about, but wasn’t ‘dark’. It was more mysterious and fantastical to be honest – with all the spirits and the old songs it felt almost fairy tale like.
The writing was well done, it was simple and straight forward but also pretty at points – the songs and poems gave it a lyrical feel at points. I didn’t catch and spelling or grammar errors either.
Pacing final score: 8/10
Writing Final Score: 8/10
This was something very different, I haven’t read anything quite like it before. It had a mythological and mysterious feel to it, it had a very unique setting and time period, the religion isn’t something I’ve encountered in fantasy before either. Not to mention the romance twist making it an LGBT friendly book. All in all this was very original.
Final Score: 10/10
- For people who like Japanese setting with samurais
- For people who like LGBT romance
- For people who like female pov
- For people who are looking for female authors
- For people who enjoy mysterious and fantastical settings
- For people who like shorter and faster paced books
Final Score: 48/60 or 8/10