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Summary: When Kaori Sansa’s father dies, he is forced to return home to claim the throne as the rightful heir of the country of Kazure. In the aftermath of his father’s death, he learns that the country he loves is riddled with corruption, and is hovering on the brink of war. Will he be able to hold the kingdom together despite the odds that are stacked against it, and somehow unlock the buried powers of Shinja, the Sacred Beast of Kazure?
Review: I promised myself that this year I would write more reviews for the books that I loved. I’m glad that I picked this one. It was a delightful gem that ensnared me from the first page.
Kaori Sansa is the heir to the seat of the High Lord of Kazure and away attending university. On the cusp of graduation he learns of his father’s sudden untimely death. His father, Akashi, was a larger than life figure, one that Kaori didn’t believe he could live up to. He and his father were such different people. Kaori the scholar his father didn’t understand, and Akashi the war hero and ruthless leader that Kaori barely knew. Taking up the mantle of High Lord comes with more dangers than Kaori would have ever guessed.
But Kaori isn’t alone. He has Hunter his bodyguard from the Assassin’s Guild who has been at his side since Kaori was six. Haku Tomana, his childhood friend, who is now a Guard of Heavens Gate. Plus there is his father’s adviser and Kaori’s former teacher, Ishaya Kamahize. All three come together to give Kaori much needed support.
From the beginning, the comfortable relationship between Kaori and Hunter was very important to Kaori. Hunter wasn’t only his trusted bodyguard but also his friend and as the story unfolds, it was easy to see how much more the two wanted but didn’t dare to wish for.
““How do you deal with fear?” Kaori asked curiously, momentarily distracted from his examination of the landscape outside the window.
Hunter smiled slightly. An expression chased across his eyes, there and then gone, that Kaori had never seen there before. It made him shiver without knowing why.
“Usually, I kill something.””
Both the story and the characters are like onions, each layer revealed something more after I thought I had a grasp on the who and the what. Sometimes the waiting for the next reveal was excruciating because I wanted to know more and gobble it up but this was a story that couldn’t be rushed.
Kaori began as sweet and endearing as well as very inexperienced in many ways which was quite refreshing from the common theme of a spoiled promiscuous heir. There was something about him that made me worry for him because I could imagine court life crushing the individual presented to me at the beginning of the book. But Kaori was also smart and approached everything with thought and consideration, surprising me and his adversaries.
Sometimes he asked the most naive questions within the hearing range of seasoned advisers and (frustratingly so) no one gave helpful hints when I had already surmised what the issue was… well, there was a couple of times I drew conclusions that were bashed so that kept me second guessing what I thought was going on.
Hunter was my favorite character and I found that most of the sections that I highlighted in the story had to do with him. There is something about wounded heroes that draws me. Hunter was a fighter in so many ways with a quiet strength but he still had secrets that he couldn’t bare for Kaori to know.
““But the thought of Kaori knowing what he had been—what horrible depths he’d had to climb out of—filled Hunter with a biting shame. He didn’t think he could survive it, if Kaori were ashamed of him.””
The writing was excellent leaving me suspicious of everything. Quickly I found myself engaged and invested in the outcome of all the characters. A sentence or two could set a scene to lead me to beautiful vistas or setting the stage for an unknown trepidation. Bits of philosophy highlight some of the character’s insights. The romance was a slow burn that had me rooting for Kaori and Hunter. I loved this Pseudo-Japanese world. I enjoy the subtle insertions of names, place names that have a meaning tying the name to the land and the people. I found the author’s note at the end delightful, giving me that look into the ground laid in the building of this colorful world.
This is an excellent book that I would highly recommend whether you like fantasy, or adventure, or a bit of intrigue. If the author ever writes a sequel, I will be first in line to buy a copy. As it is, I’m going to go look and see if this also comes in paperback because I want it on my bookshelf.