Emperor of the Eight Islands
An ambitious warlord leaves his nephew for dead and seizes his lands.
A stubborn father forces his younger son to surrender his wife to his older brother.
A mysterious woman seeks five fathers for her children.
A powerful priest meddles in the succession to the Lotus Throne.
These are the threads of an intricate tapestry in which the laws of destiny play out against a backdrop of wild forest, elegant court, and savage battlefield. Set in a mythical medieval Japan inhabited by warriors and assassins, ghosts and guardian spirits, Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn is a brilliantly imagined novel, full of drama and intrigue – the beginning of an enthralling, epic adventure: The Tale of Shikanoko.
A work as densely populated as a Russian novel [which] moves onwards with the narrative force of a flood. It is easy to let the book sweep the reader away, to engage with strange events, but very compelling characters [and] huge imaginative vitality.
Sydney Morning Herald
The Otori world is feudal Japan with imaginary place names, written in the spirit of The Tale of Genji and other classics. As with Genji, two warring clans seek to control the Emperor, and the country itself. The books are carefully researched, being surely the most wildly successful product of an Asialink grant. They convince as if being read in translation, as if Hearn is merely the medium for some lost and ancient text. Much like 'Game of Thrones', the book can be read as political intrigue, with great strength deriving from the character studies. Nobody is black or white, rather shades of grey.
One of the great joys of genre novels is that they usually care deeply about plot, satisfying the innately human desire for story. And there is story aplenty here. The unfolding events are so fascinating, the writing so lithe and seductive. There's no need to have read Hearn's earlier Otori series, set in the same remarkable fantasy world, to enjoy this one. Indeed, her new epic seems sure to recruit a fresh legion of fans.
The Saturday Paper