My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s 1611, and a ship is wrecking off the coast of Japan. Jack Fletcher is the only survivor and ends up being rescued by a notable swordsman. Drawn into the world of the samurai, Jack’s future depends on how he adapts to his new life as a warrior and whether he will ever discover what’s up with all the interest in what his father gave him as his final gift…
Quite often a book that’s written in English and features ‘a foreign language’ does so in a fairly painful manner. Think something like the below:
“Oui,” said the man. “Yes.”
“D’accord,” said the boy, “I agree.”
Essentially they say the word in the foreign language first, before repeating it in English afterwards. It’s an awkward and mildly insulting reading experience and one that totally negates a reader’s chance to decipher a text contextually.
Bradford, to his eternal credit, does not do this and I love him for it. He’s written a brilliant book, full of pace and yet curiously able to pause and reflect on the greater things in life. It’s a really good book. Yes the central trope of orphan boy proving adept at X is recurrent in children’s literature, but that’s for a reason. The hero narrative is intensely appealing and I’ve got no bones about this when it’s done this well.
I really really liked this. It’s clearly written with a great level of love for the Japanese culture and people. Bradford’s created an exciting, funny, sharp, thoughtful and surprising book that’s most definitely worth a read.