I did it again. I managed to read the third book in series without realizing what am I doing until it was way too late to back out. But in reader’s mistakes come praises for authors. “Disciple of the Wind” by Steve Bein (Fated Blades 3; ISBN 0451470206; 528p.; Goodreads) was a perfectly good stand alone for me, causing no questions, and no confusion. That is one firm praise I can give this author: story is polished back to back.
The book is made out of two stories in different time lines. Both connected together by fated blades, once forged with some sort of magic within them, for their names are very literal in their effectiveness.
The older story is of Daigoro, a former samurai, now a vagabond ronin, disgraced by Shichio, a dangerous, but low born man, only reaching high for his relation to a man who is about to claim whole of Japan, and wouldn’t mind the World with it. Daigoro is a fugitive in hiding, for Shichio has the resources he himself lacks. The only true chance to kill the man and restore his honor is to fight him in a duel. But all the troubles start with this idea. For Daigoro owns a sword named Glorious Victory Unsought. Unsought is the keyword. How does one beat a cowardly man, surrounded by personal army, with a sword that only grants victory when the victory is not cared for?
The other line of the story is in our times and follows american raised Japanese cop Mariko. She’s a disciplined being, fluid among the worlds of law and criminal chaos. And she too in her hands has the sword called Glorious Victory Unsought, heck, she even knows how to use it. The big difference here is that she believes in being a cop. She believes in justice behind bars, not death on the street. But how does one keep behind the bars a man who calls himself The Purging Fire of Divine Wind?
I liked her story far better, even thought I always loved stories of samurai (truly, as far as I can remember). Mariko is witty and just somehow different from your regular bad-ass ladies, especially since she rarely loses her composure and near never goes for pain-inflicting, and truly never for a kill. How often you read of a cool chick who doesn’t have to assert her dominance by kicking in some dangly bits?
And now the bad part of this review. Author, in my opinion, tried far too hard to “japanize” the story, as a result giving me as a reader and as a translator a lot of discomfort. Little bits he tried to use as “natural parts of speech” came off as “these people speak English among themselves in Japan, while being Japanese“, which is absolutely not the case, and yet the sensation stayed in my head. There’s also a small, but after you get annoyed by overuse of “neh?”, noticeable inconsistency with what does one call in Japanese titles, and what in English. If sake is underlined, why isn’t soba? But that’s probably a pull at editors, not the author. The story? Well. Author did try to put a twist or a turn there and here, but neither went well. Soon you realize that Fate is taken seriously here, so whatever happens, all of the fated characters will be saved by the fate, helped by the fate, sheltered by the fate, and nothing will ever stay in their way to fate too long. In short: the book is extremely predictable, which rendered reading as duty for me, rather than pleasure. So all in all, book gets 3 out of 5 from me, for I can’t give more, as much as I’d like to, but really don’t wish to give any less either. And maybe someday I’ll indulge in the other ones. Mariko IS a well written female character, which I find to be rare and lovely. Well done on that.