Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirk proves himself a worthy samurai novelist with this brutal account of real-life 17th-century swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, who grew from a pockmarked village outcast to Japan's best warrior, due to his legendary samurai treatise, The Book of the Five Rings. The novel opens as lonely 13-year-old Bennosuke polishes the armor of his revered father, the samurai Munisai, who has spent the previous eight years in exile following the death of Bennosuke's mother. Bennosuke's uncle, the monk Dorinbo, has been raising the boy, encouraging him to seek a quiet life in the temple, while Bennosuke wants nothing more than to start samurai training. Munisai finally returns home, wounded and discouraged, but willing to share his mastery of the warrior's way with Bennosuke, leading to the revelation of the family's darkest secret. After learning all he can from Munisai, Bennosuke sets out on his own, ending up at the Battle of Sekigahara, where, still a teenager, he escapes from the defeated army well versed in bloodshed, treachery, and chaos, having taken the name he will soon make famous. Kirk, who lives in Japan, positively seethes with energy when depicting bloody violence-from great battlefields to intimate ritual suicide-showing feudal Japan as a complex culture in which cunning and poetry are indispensable, and death and vengeance unavoidable. (Mar. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Based on the life of samurai legend Musashi Miyamoto (who penned the classic The Book of Five Rings), this historical debut rips along at the speed of a deftly wielded, flashing katana sword. It takes place as 16th-century Japan is in turmoil and the rigid codes of honor, social status, and clan dominance are slowly being challenged. Musashi (known as Bennosuke throughout most of the book) must deal with the loss of family, loss of privilege, coming of age, and the relentless violence and terror intrinsic to the samurai class. Well anchored in the history, beliefs, and traditions of feudal Japan, this novel is a personal psychological trip as well as a commentary on the blindly accepted practices of an era. VERDICT Kirk, who teaches English in Japan, has penned an educational, engrossing, and just plain fun-to-read book. It is well written and well researched, and should appeal to a wide variety of readers, especially those who loved James Clavell's Shogun. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/12.]--Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirk proves himself a worthy samurai novelist with this brutal account of real-life 17th-century swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, who grew from a pockmarked village outcast to Japan's best warrior, due to his legendary samurai treatise, The Book of the Five Rings. The novel opens as lonely 13-year-old Bennosuke polishes the armor of his revered father, the samurai Munisai, who has spent the previous eight years in exile following the death of Bennosuke's mother. Bennosuke's uncle, the monk Dorinbo, has been raising the boy, encouraging him to seek a quiet life in the temple, while Bennosuke wants nothing more than to start samurai training. Munisai finally returns home, wounded and discouraged, but willing to share his mastery of the warrior's way with Bennosuke, leading to the revelation of the family's darkest secret. After learning all he can from Munisai, Bennosuke sets out on his own, ending up at the Battle of Sekigahara, where, still a teenager, he escapes from the defeated army well versed in bloodshed, treachery, and chaos, having taken the name he will soon make famous. Kirk, who lives in Japan, positively seethes with energy when depicting bloody violence-from great battlefields to intimate ritual suicide-showing feudal Japan as a complex culture in which cunning and poetry are indispensable, and death and vengeance unavoidable. (Mar. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This coming-of-age biographical novel features the famous seventeenth-century samurai warrior-poet Musashi Miyamoto, who created the double sword fighting method kenjutsu. Readers unfamiliar with Japanese history initially may feel lost in this detailed and measured account of the samurai's life and the strict traditions surrounding family and personal honor. Kirk does, however, provide backstory in the form of vivid explanatory drama a child committing seppuku (hara-kiri), a temple burning, and several brutal acts of vengeance. Young Bennosuke declares his samurai name, Miyamoto, at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), which is described in tense and gruesome detail. The characters, even the young Bennosuke, aren't particularly likable in conventional terms, but Kirk's spare portrayal of the way of life of the samurai, whose duty it is to protect, defend, and avenge and for whom dying is nothing and winning is all, proves remarkably compelling. Those who enjoyed James Clavell's Shogun (1975) or who read the Sano Ichiro mysteries by Laura Joh Rowlands will find much to ponder in this starkly realistic and bleak portrait of Bushido, the way of the samurai warrior.--Baker, Jen Copyright 2010 Booklist