Top critical review
A worthy book that can be hard work
on 20 July 2013
This had the potential to be an excellent book, but at times the author often got sidetracked into following meaningless characters that no doubt had great purpose in showing the moral side of Musashi. Often you want the story just to move on, but the author diverts and meanders for hundreds of pages about the mental anguish of akemi, otsu, masakatsu, daigo, etc. Lots of conflicted characters are torn by their failure to live a pure enough life, hate themselves for not being worthy of each other, but finally slowly find inner peace (by slowly I mean hundreds of pages - you will feel each one like a year). Unfortunately these are the hallmarks of the classic Japanese romances and you have to put up with them.
If course, the fact that I managed to finish a 1000+ page book should indicate that it is pretty good. I've been a big fan of that period of Japanese history ever since I read Shogun (my favourite book of all time). I loved being immersed into 17th century Japan. The end of the civil war and the subsequent banning of firearms heralded a real boom in the study of classic martial arts and the establishment of schools which had different methods and philosophies. The life of a shugyosha (a student who travels around learning from different schools) is vividly described through the journey of Musashi.
All in all this book is a good read, but like too healthy a meal can be hard work and unappetising at times.