I was immediately pulled into this engrossing, beautifully depicted world that is clearly based upon the closed society of Japan, as the book starts with a bang and the pace doesn’t let up. This epic story cris-crosses the country as the main characters Kaito and Naoki find themselves pitch-forked right into the middle of a family feud, with devastating consequences for all concerned… The story is told in multiple pov, as others also become embroiled in this clan war.
This isn’t a simple good versus evil conflict, where some shadowy nasty villain lurks whose motives are as murky as his scheming, for we are taken into the heads of sympathetic protagonists on both sides of this vendetta. I cared about all the people in the story and could see where they were coming from – even the wilful, high-handed Naoki.
The other dynamic I thoroughly enjoyed is how things are not as they initially appear. So while we are presented with what seems to be the facts at the start of the book, as the plot progresses, we begin to realise that there are other forces at play. Done well, this tactic never fails to have me humming with pleasure as I delve ever deeper into the world, absolutely hooked and wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery. And this deftly balanced plot pulled me along to the climax, with me reading waaay longer than I should to find out what happens next.
The initial storyline is all wrapped up satisfactorily – but there are a whole lot of dangling plotpoints and I’m fervently hoping the second book in the series is on the verge of being released – because I need to know what happens next! I’ll be buying more of Ash’s books – and if you are looking for a really strong, exciting fantasy story with plenty going on, that doesn’t descend into too much gore, then give it a go.
I loved this book. Set in medieval Japan, it tells the story of rival clans whose blood feud has endured for many years, and the fate of their sons and daughters who have to choose between family loyalty with its rigid burdens of honour, or loyalty to friends and lovers - and deeper magical forces. The dragons of the title, Ebb and Flood, are bound to serve the Emperor of Cipangu by two precious pearls, the Tide Jewels. The jewels underpin the power of the Emperor, so when renegade clansmen steal the jewels for their own ends, the race is on to find them before the Emperor learns of their loss, bringing disgrace and death to their guardians. Lively and readable, the story cracks along at a swift pace. The characters are likeable and believable and there is a real sense of jeopardy that keeps one turning the page. The mystery behind the theft of the jewels keeps the reader guessing. Human characters like the protagonist Kai - the lame monk who is also a nobleman - mingle with fox-spirits or Kitsune, deities, and even a terrifying fire-demon or shikigami. The story presents a web of complex loyalties, between friends, lovers and rival clans, with honour and the fear of disgrace an important force. No-one is perfect, not even the gods. When the true villain is revealed at the end, it brings a satisfying denouement.