5 Feb 2018

The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Heart of the Samurai #1
Kindle Publishing, 287 Pages, July 18th 2017

Japan, 1587. Sen must find a husband to marry into her family’s swordsmith business. She seeks a Christian husband, though Christianity is banned.

Enter Nobuhiro. Third son of a high-level samurai, Nobuhiro fled his harsh father and apprenticed himself to a swordsmith. He yearns to prove his worth.

They seem an ideal match. But for Sen, the choice is faith or family. For Nobuhiro, choosing a Christian ends any reconciliation with his family. Can love be forged from the impossible?

My Review:

This book had the very unusual and interesting setting of sixteenth-century Japan. Only in the last few decades, it seems, has the story of Japanese Christianity in the early modern period come to the attention of the West. Many of these people were converted by Portuguese Catholic missionaries in the early sixteenth century. When, later in the century, Christianity was forbidden by the authorities many continued to practice their faith in secret: fictionalized versions of their stories are elaborated in novels such as Silence. Which has of course been made into a movie starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield.

The Samurai’s Heart is the first book in a series by an American author married to a lady of Japanese extraction. It follows Sen, the daughter of a swordsmith and a Christian convert whose circumstances irrevocably change and she is forced to return to her family home. There she meets Nobuhiru, the young man whom her father has taken on as his apprentice because he has no son. Nobuhiru is the son of a Samurai, the elite warrior class of Japan, but is estranged from his family because of a physical disability which makes him partly lame in the leg.

Amidst danger from political intrigue, the two become friends but are reluctant to accept their respective families’ suggestions that should marry. Sen does not want to marry a man who does not share her faith, and whose father may be involved in the persecution of her fellow Christians, and Nobuhiru worries that an alliance with a Christian might result in his family disowning him, just when he is starting to rebuild bridges with them. Loyalties, friendship, and faith are tested when a dangerous conspiracy involving a rogue band of Samurai comes closer to home.

The list of names and glossary in the front were an essential addition to this book for readers like me who occasionally got bogged down remembering all the characters. Don't let that put you off though, as this book is well worth the effort, and the author has done a wonderful job of evoking another time and place far removed from what is familiar to most American and European readers. Which, apart from a few Americanisms I found very authentic and engrossing. 

I volunteered to read this book through the Kindle Scout Program and was not required to leave a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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