I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book The Night Parade of 100 Demons by Marie Brennan, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.
So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.
I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.
So let’s crack on with a review then!
What is Legend of the Five Rings
L5R as it’s often known is a fantasy setting for a series of card games and RPGs originally published by AEG, but now taken care of by Fantasy Flight.
It’s set in the empire of Rokugan which is heavily feudal Japan influenced, with a bit of other East Asian influences, like China and Korea thrown in as well.
It’s a fantasy setting with the usual fantasy trips of goblins and rat men, but also oni and kitsune too.
In the Empire there are several great clans, made up of various families, and in this novel we focus on the Crab Clan, who are considered the least cultured of all clans.
Their task in life is to guard the rest of the empire from the taint of the Shadowlands on the Carpenter Wall.
Chaos has broken out in the isolated Dragon Clan village Seibo Mura, when during full moons, vicious demons rampage throughout the village, causing havoc, destroying buildings and killing villagers.
The Dragons send the samurai Agasha no Isao Ryotora to investigate the situation in the village, but an unexpected helper has arrived in the form of Asako Sekken of the Phoenix Clan.
Lets get this out the way, I have seen criticism in other reviews that the novel doesn’t have much action and the demons don’t actually feature that much, well if that’s what you want, this book isn’t for you.
This book is one that focuses on the spiritual, so it delves into the Kami, guardian spirits, demons, holy rituals and prayer. Its deeply engrained in Japanesse spiritual culture and is heavily based on the Hyakki Yakō. Not all that surprising as the author is a folklorist and anthropologist.
There is also an almost spiritual procedural investigation aspect to the story, as the pair figure out what exactly is going on in the village by interviewing the inhabitants and researching the background of the demons.
The characters are, well I will be honest, its hard to get into their heads at first. They both have secrets to hide, and they both try their best to solve the mystery whilst keeping those secrets hidden from the other. They are a bit of an odd couple, Rytotora is serious and sombre, a very straight character who despite his humble background, embodies the very nobility of the Samurai.
Sekken on the other hand is more laid back, care free, a scholar who prefers to spend his time reading rather than doing, and gives off an aura of only being there because its a break from his boredom.
The story alternatives between their points of view which is interesting, and there is a frustration that they clearly are attracted to one another but both too caught up in the whole idea that the other wouldn’t be attracted to them that you can almost tear out your hair.
And that leads me to another point, the fact that Aconyte have been very good about putting queer characters in their books, front and centre, with no song and dance about it. LGBTQ characters in their books are part of life, they exist and there is a wonderful, almost ordinary way in which they are presented.
I actually really loved this book, but I will be honest, it wasn’t the characters which drew me in, it was the background.
The fascinating and rather beautiful way that Marie has presented the culture and world of Rokugan drew me in and kept me turning the page.
The characters whilst mildly interesting really took a backseat to the wonderful world of L5R and this for me would be a better background read for anyone wanting to get into the RPG than any other background book as it makes the world really come to life.
Solid 4 out of 5 stars.
You can buy the eBook now and the paperback on the 15th April!
- Mood:- Irritated
- Caffeinated Beverages Consumed:- 1
- In My Ears:- Weezer – All My Favourite Songs
- Tabletop Game Last Played:- Star Trek Adventures
- Video Game Last Played:- The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
- Book Last Read:- The Sword of Surtur – CL Werner
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- Current State of Projects:- Vanguard-Palladors riders about 50% done, first colours on the Gryph-Chargers. Ironsouls Condemnors awaiting transfers