Emperor of the Eight Islands, by Lian Hearn
Years ago Lian Hearn wrote Across the Nightingale Floor – book 1 of the Tales of the Otori – which I think I reviewed for Foundation (I reviewed it for someone, anyway) and which I loved. It was set in a pseudo-Japanese medieval world, which gave it all the advantages of being set in medieval Japan and none of the disadvantages of having to pay attention to things like real geography. It was only very lightly fantastical and was followed by further titles that got less and less good and gripping, until by the end we were basically just getting the plot notes, barely fleshed out with ‘he said’ / ‘she said’.
But now Hearn seems to have self-applied the electrodes and turned out Emperor of the Eight Islands, which is similar but with much more fantasy. It was mostly a quite gripping tale of Otori-style pseudo-Japanese dynastic politics but this time existing side by side with Japanese mythology and folklore, such that no one bats an eyelid when (for example) a major character is reincarnated as a horse. Well, of course. It’s the style of plotting, a bit Game of Thrones like, where absolutely no one has the slightest idea that they are in a story and so acts entirely based upon their own perceptions and in their own self-interests, no matter how inconvenient this is for other characters sharing the same plot, and hence you have absolutely no idea who will still be alive when you turn the page. Cracking.
And it wasn’t until the last chapter that I realised this was going to be book 1 of a new series, growl.