4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable intro to the Bakumatsu period
, 23 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Milligan and the Samurai Rebels (Milligan Adventures Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I picked this one up on a whim, as I normally steer well clear of the numerous successors to Flashman that are popping up on the e-book market. However, one of my biggest regrets was that Flashman never made his way into the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868) when Japan suddenly discovered the world. It's a really cool era in world history, with loads going on and lots of iconic people and happenings. 'Milligan and the Samurai Rebels' manages to cover most of the most notable events between 1862 and 1865, when things started getting really interesting.
The action's fast-paced, sending the lily-livered hero careening across most of Japan in an entertaining fashion - it's not Flashman, but I wasn't expecting it to be so, so I wasn't disappointed. The plot stretches the boundaries of credibility in places, but it works well enough and keeps Milligan on the move.
The best part of the book is the historical and cultural aspects. I'm quite well-versed in Japanese history, so I didn't learn much that was new, but for someone fresh to the topic, they couldn't go far wrong with this. The historical background (Perry, the coming of the Black Ships) is all there. It's nice to see the French getting a look in as well. Viewers of the Tom Cruise film 'The Last Samurai' may be surprised to learn that the character he plays is based on a Frenchman. Trust Hollywood to obfuscate history to pander to the US market. I enjoyed the breezy factual parts so much, it was quite a shock to reach the end and find no historical note! Definitely a failing - a historical fiction novel needs one, even if here it's quite easy to sort out fact and fiction. Similarly, a list of real historical personages wouldn't go amiss. Saigo Takamori's significance might well escape a casual reader; ditto with Sakamoto Ryoma.
This brings me on to the most necessary thing: a sequel! The Bakumatsu has yet to reach its dramatic climax in 1865. Milligan's started off very promisingly: it would be a real shame if this was an orphaned series. Surely he has to cover the Boshin War? There's hints too of waht will become the Satsuma-Choshu alliance - will we see it come to fruition?
Finally, two trivial things: I was saddened not to see Milligan get mixed up in the fight at the Ikedaya, one of the cooler swordfights in Japanese history, with the iconic Shinsengumi swordsmen duking it out with fanatical Choshu rebels. And as for Choshu, having lived in what was once Choshu Han, it was a novelty to see them portrayed as a bunch of fanatical maniacs: not how the museums in Hagi tell it at all!
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