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Fudoki [Kindle Edition]

Kij Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


"The Fox Woman is a magnificent book, powerfully and profoundly moving; in its moods and atmosphere, utterly magical, a genuine and unique work of high art. And all of this expressed through language that is elegant, economical, graceful. The Fox Woman immediately sets the author in the front rank of today's novelists."

Product Description

In her skillful debut novel, Kij Johnson took the classic Japanese myth of the fox who dared to become a woman to win true love and created The Fox Woman, a luminous, lyrical tale of love, desire, joy, and the nature of the soul.

Set in the same universe as The Fox Woman, this time Kij Johnson takes on another animal totem and enters the world of the creature who comes to be known as Kagaya-hime, a sometime woman warrior, occasional philosopher, and reluctant confidante to noblemen.
And who may or may not be the figment of the imagination of an aging empress who is embarking on the last journey of her life, setting aside the trappings of court life and reminiscing as she follows the paths that are leading her to the nunnery and death.
Fudoki is the tale of a being who starts her journey on the kami, or spirit road, as a humble-if ever a being such as a Cat can be humble-small tortoiseshell feline. She has seen her family destroyed by a fire that decimated most of the Imperial city. This loss renders her taleless, the only one left alive to pass on such stories as The Cat Born the Year the Star Fell, the Cat with a Litter of Ten, the Fire-Tailed Cat. Without her fudoki-self and soul and home and shrine-she cannot keep the power of her clan together. And she cannot join another fudoki because, although she might be able to win a place within another clan, to do so would mean that she would cease to be herself.

So a small cat begins an extraordinary journey. Along the way she will attract the attention of old and ancient powers, including gods who are curious about this creature newly come to Japan's shores, and who choose to give the tortoiseshell a human shape.
And who set her on a new kami road, where Kagaya-hime will have to choose a way to find what happiness she can.

Weaving a haunting story of one being's transformation and journey of discovery with the telling of another's long life set against the backdrop of the courtly rituals of Imperial power, Kij Johnson has written a powerful novel about the nature of freedom and the redemptive power of transformation--if only one is brave enough to risk it all.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 521 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0765303914
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (1 Oct 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OS3BDG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97,654 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Filled with Magic and Beauty 7 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought Fudoki when I was half way through reading The Fox Woman but kept it waiting on the shelf, something to look forward to. I skirted around it, picking it up now and again, prowling closer to the promise of the pages. Would it be as good, better, different? Finally I allowed myself to read it and this morning finished the last page.

Already I know that I have to read it again, that I have to read them both again, that both are two of the books that I hold closest to my heart. I love the place that both of these books are from, love the magic, the language, the possibilities, the layers, the richness. I love the images that they make to dance in my head. I love the courage of the small cat-become-woman as she walks through the world to find her Fudoki. Part of the reason it took me so long to open the book, to take the time to read was because I knew that nothing could be as good at The Fox Woman. But I was wrong.

I love the subtle workings and the slight bonds that bind the magic of The Fox Woman to the magic of Fudoki.

And now I know that in the same way that when I see a fox it brings to mind Kitsune I will never see a tortoiseshell cat without thinking of Kagaya-Hime, her extraordinary journey, and wondering how she is. And also remembering this from the book, which reminds me so much of reading, what it is, what it can be...

"I have been fishing in a river a thousand miles from you, eyeing the trout beneath its surface. For some reason this brought you to my mind."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Princess and the Cat Woman 21 Sep 2004
By Lynn Harnett - Published on
Inspired by Japanese myth, Johnson's ("The Fox Woman") second fantasy follows the wanderings of an orphaned cat, a creature sprung from the mind of Harueme, a Japanese princess who has lived a long, privileged and circumscribed life.

Near death, Harueme begins to fill blank notebooks - a new one for each chapter - with the cat's story, interwoven with her own memories. The young tortoiseshell cat lost her family, and with them, her fudoki - her spiritual lineage - in a terrible fire. She sets out on an aimless journey, bereft of name, family and purpose, and encounters gods and people, none of whom hold any interest for her. But ignoring the gods can have a price and the little cat is transformed into a woman - with enough cat qualities and spirit-aid to help her on her adventures.

Free and alone, she is unlike Harueme who has never been either. But Harueme has her own power, not least of which is her imagination. Harueme absorbs the world as people bring it to her in tales, and the cat-woman keeps the world at bay as she moves through it, defending her life, making friends, acquiring a reputation and a name: Kagaya-hime, woman warrior.

Johnson's writing is fluid and musical, her characters archetypes and real at the same time, and the historical detail is imaginatively, visually realized. But Harueme, though pampered, selfish and captive, is more involving than the cat-woman, whose humorless detachment is, well, too feline, for real identification. But Johnson makes us believe that Kagaya-hime is what a cat-turned-woman would be like, and this tale of love, belonging, freedom and redemption is as rewarding as it is different.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic and down-to-earth story 26 April 2005
By L. McPhee - Published on
There's a saying that I can't remember at the moment, something about painting a picture with words. I wasn't really aware until I read this book that it was possible to paint an entire world with them - that's the way this book comes across to me, as broad strokes on rough canvas.

Fudoki takes place in Japan round about 1000AD-ish, and the story is that of a princess, Harueme, who is nearing the end of her life. She, in turn, is telling a story about a cat, and the book takes us through both her own and her character's tale, weaving back and forth between them at Harueme's whim.

I'm glad I bought this book, because I knew even half way through reading it that I would want to re-read it in the future - so much is touched on in the story. I think it will be well worth going through it again, knowing the characters better right from the get-go. There are some great themes, and they're touched on in so many different ways: death, freedom, strength, and how they all intertwine. This is one of those stories that I didn't want to end - I kept checking to see how many pages I had left - but am glad it did where it did. Open-ended, and yet extremely satisfying.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and necessary. 3 Oct 2010
By PhoenixFalls - Published on
First, I have to say, that jacket description is riddled with so many small inaccuracies about this story that I was tempted not to include it. They aren't fundamentally important inaccuracies -- though it is very important to realize that the "she" referred to at the start of the second paragraph is Kagaya-hime, not the "aging empress" who isn't an empress at all -- but it bugs me now that I've read the story to see how wrong it is. Ah well, moving on.

This is a wonderful book, sure to appeal to fans of Patricia McKillip and Catherynne Valente, though it's more accessible than either of their work. It's very much rooted in the myths of Japan, and while I don't know a ton about the time period, nothing of what I do know was contradicted by what Johnson wrote, so I am assuming that she captured the era (Heian-era Japan I believe) with some degree of accuracy. Like in McKillip and Valente's work, this is not fantasy that lovingly details a set of rules for its magic system; it is fantasy where there are gods and there are humans and there are animals and the lines between these things are not sharp at all, where anything can happen and no one is much surprised when anything does. Logic plays a role, but it's dream logic, and the worst error to commit is in assuming that any other being's motivations match our own.

But what made this book brilliant (and caused it to be nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award) is the way in which it is fundamentally a womens' fantasy. The fudoki of the cats is entirely female; there is no place for males, and none of the fudoki cares to even know the names of the toms that fathered their kittens. Harueme (this would be the aging noblewoman narrating Kagaya-hime's tale, half-sister to the former Emperor Shirakawa) also lives in an almost entirely female world, where women have husbands and lovers but their days are spent hidden from male sight (and even the seductions take place with an eye to maintaining the illusion that no man can see their faces). Harueme loved her half-brother, and reminisces about her soldier-lover Domei, but the most important relationship she has is with her attendant, Shigeko. The novel even acknowledges that women menstruate -- I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand the SF/F novels that do that -- and there are elaborate (historically-based, I assume) codes of conduct built around that simple fact of life. It's a novel about women's issues: family and home and place in a society when all of those things are rigidly proscribed.

It works on a pure fantasy level too, with the cat-transformed-into-a-human element and the presence of the kami (which are a whole class of gods, not the name of a specific god as the jacket implies) and even a small war of revenge that leads to a seige; and I'm pretty sure it works as historical fiction, though as I've said I don't know very much about the time period so I can't attest to its accuracy. But it will linger in my memory because it shows a slice of life fantasy novels too often forget, not with any particular message, but just because these are stories that rarely get told. I wish there were more novels like this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing as beautiful as cherry blossoms 13 April 2007
By D.S. Chen - Published on
"Fudoki" in Japanese literally means "description of natural features" - an ancient record created in feudal Japan of the culture, topography and folklore of a particular place. However, the word has far more meaning for the character of the story-within-a-story told in Kij Johnson's novel of the same name.

Kagaya-hime is a black tortoiseshell cat who has lost her family and extended clan in a fire. They and their predecessors were part of Kagaya-hime's "fudoki" - a cat's hearth and home, soul and line of succession. In her search to find a new place where she belongs, Kagaya-hime travels along the Tokaido - one of the ancient routes connecting Edo and Kyoto - and is watched by the spirit of the road, a kami. The kami decides to test the cat on her journey by changing her into a beautiful woman... albeit a woman whose behavior and words are those of a cat.

The cat's tale is being told by the elderly Princess Harueme, who feels compelled to fill the pages of a notebook with a story before she goes to spend her final years in solitude and religious contemplation at a Buddhist convent. The novel deftly weaves back and forth between the tale of Kagaya-hime and Harueme's own story, which is sometimes peppered in as commentary to the cat's story. The princess readily admits to being jealous of her own creation, who is free to experience both pain and the freedom to roam which are denied to a member of the royal court. Harueme cannot help but share some of the joy and pain that she has experienced during her long years.

Just like her previous novel "The Fox Woman," Johnson has taken the world of Heian-era Japan and imbued it with a fresh take on some of the Japanese mythology which originated during that period. As other reviewers have noted, Johnson is one of those rare Western authors who is able not only to successfully spin a tale using characters and themes from the East, but also effectively utilize an Asian storytelling style in the English language. Her prose is quite delicately crafted and her descriptions of the people and places of long-ago Japan are very richly detailed.

I highly recommend this book, and am very much looking forward to the final installment of Johnson's Heian trilogy.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Educational and Entertaining 21 Feb 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Fudoki allowed me a glimpse of medieval Japan unlike any I've encountered before. The text itself is a fairly engaging story littered with jewels of prose that left me thinking, "Wow. Lovely." I had trouble getting into it at first, I think because I was being impatient, but once I was more than a quarter of the way through, I was hooked.
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