Tag: Legend of the Five Rings

Death’s Kiss

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Death’s Kiss by Josh Reynolds, 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 also friend with Josh on Facebook, however I am sure for him that’s more about connecting with fans rather than being one of my best buds, that said he is actually a really nice guy.

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 tropes of goblins and rat men, but also oni and kitsune too.

The Story

Daidoji Shin is a an aristocrat of the Crane clan banished to the City of the Rich Frog, to serve as his clans trade envoy.

In the last book Poison River his talent as a detective was discovered as he foiled a plot to bring the cities various factions to war.

And since then it seems he has become a very in demand fella, and the owner of a theatre (which he did sort of get burnt down). And when a powerful friend asks him to investigate the circumstances of a murder in another city.

The murderer is in custody and her execution is called for by the family of the man she killed, but the local magistrate is holding her as he attempts to figure out why the incident occurred as he tries to avoid the two families from coming to blows in the street.

With a woman’s life on the line, Shin throws himself into the case and ends up getting caught up in a sinister plan by a group of revolutionaries that wish to change the empire forever.

Conclusion

I am gonna put my cards on the table here, and say that whilst I liked this book, I felt is should have come further down the line.

The City of the Rich Frog was so well established in the last book, so well developed with an interesting cast of background characters who made it so deeply interesting, that I really missed that in this book.

Don’t get me wrong, Josh did a wonderful job in establishing a new city and new characters, but I just didn’t gel with them as well as I did those from the previous book.

He has set up some interesting possibilities for future books however with this novel.

Again we continue that Holmesian tribute act that Shin is, and it’s a very good one, the case may be straightforward but Shin needs to understand the why, not simply the how. He tenacity not only leads to a resolution that’s best for all the families.

I really enjoyed this book, knowing what happened did lend the twist as we tried to figure out the reasons for the crime, because they really do matter, and whilst there was some general predictability, it wasn’t glaringly obvious.

Instead the book makes you feel smart as you go “ahh I think I know”, then leads you to they why, what giving it’s all a bit of a twist.

This novel felt a bit more pulpy than the last one, not a bad thing, but it was an easy and enjoyable read that was hard to put down.

Josh has built a very interesting little corner of Rokugan and I really want to spend more time there.

I am actually currently thinking about perhaps running an RPG campaign in the City of the Rich Frog, I am that enamoured with the work Josh has done.

It’s 4 out of 5 for me and I only drop a star because I feel like the characters life in the City of the Rich Frog needed more development before he went elsewhere.


Deaths Kiss is out as an eBook on the 1st June and as paperback on the 19th August.


Poison River

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Posion River by Josh Reynolds, 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 also friend with Josh on Facebook, however I am sure for him that’s more about connecting with fans rather than being one of my best buds, that said he is actually a really nice guy.

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 tropes of goblins and rat men, but also oni and kitsune too.

The Story

Daidoji Shin is a an aristocrat of the Crane clan banished to the City of the Rich Frog, to serve as his clans trade envoy.

He has a reputation as a wastrel and is considered a disappointment to his family, so has essentially been banished to somewhere he can’t do much harm, along with his faithful, but very put upon bodyguard Kasami.

In this story he is called upon by the cities governor to conduct an investigation into the poisoning of some rice, something which could threaten to destroy the fragile peace between the clans who call the city home.

He is only asked to do this because his clan is relatively neutral, but as it turns out, he actually has a talent for investigation, his habits of wide reading and study all manor of mundane things has made him ideal for the job.

And so he throws himself into the mystery, despite the politics and dangers posed by the clans rivalries, shinobi and the criminal underworld he finds himself embroiled in.

Conclusion

Ok so this book is very typical of Josh’s writing, in that it’s engaging and full of world building.

The novel isn’t just about Daidoji Shin but for me the main character was actually the city itself, rich and literally dripping with detail, you get a real sense of a bustling city, that is essentially a tinderbox waiting to catch fire.

The supporting cast get just as much character development as the main protagonists and it really feels like Josh has had a lot of fun developing a city that he can spend years playing with and developing.

I am hoping that’s Fantasy Flight are going to develop the city as a sourcebook for the RPG as I really want to actually play around with it and enjoy some adventures with pirates and smugglers on the docks!

Daidoji Shin is himself a fascinating character, on the surface, spoiled, rich and cares for nowt but his own pleasure, but in actual fact is an intelligent man, very much in the mould of Sherlock Holmes.

The books is utterly wonderful and I am already looking forward to the sequel, which Aconyte have already sent me.

If you want a mystery novel, with snappy dialogue, a rich setting and a cast that you are just desperate to spend more time with, then grab this book.

5 out of 5 Stars

You can buy the paperback and eBook now.


The Night Parade of 100 Demons

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.

The Story

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.

Conclusion

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!


Curse of Honor

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Curse of Honor by David Annandale, 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.

Secondly I am a friend of David’s on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t best buds, we do interact with each other on occasion and I consider him a class person.

I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

I am gonna get the big bit out the way first, if you listen to Edge of Empire, you will know I am not a big fan of David’s writing style. Frankly I find it difficult to process and it’s very short sentences which doesn’t give the best flow for me to read.

But he is good at weird stuff, which in Warhammer translates to stuff to do with the warp. I also think he is best when writing shorter works, such as novellas and short stories.

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.

The Story

The story has two main protagonists, initially we have Haru, the heir to the castle of Striking Dawn, and frankly he is a bit of an incompetent warrior.

He discovers when leading a caravan to the castle, a hidden city outpost of the Shadowlands, and in a desperate attempt to prove himself a worthy heir, leads a disaster out expedition to purge the city.

Our second protagonist, Barako, the object of Harus desire, is a more level headed warrior, a woman who wishes only to serve the castle and protect the greater empire. She is a great character with a strong sense of duty, I really love that about her.

When Haru is returned to the castle, well then we get some bad things happening, which leads us into a horror whodunit, with a twist, which to be honest, I kinda saw a mile off.

The story has a heavy horror element, and this is something David is really good at, and yea the sentence shortness was a bit irritating, but I have to say, he is getting better as a writer, he really is.

Not that I could ever write of course, but unlike with some of his earlier work, I couldn’t put this down once I picked it up and read it over a couple of days.

The descriptions of the hidden city were really good and very much put you there in its weirdness and I got a real good feel for Striking Dawn.

He also had the characters kept very much on edge, with absolutely no time to rest, and I found myself feeling their grief, anger, despair, rage and exhaustion.

Conclusion

I won’t lie, I went in with low expectations, L5R was never really my bag, and as I said, David writing doesn’t usually click with me.

But I have to say, it’s an enjoyable read, very well written, very engaging and very well edited, with a nice flow to it.

I kinda want to know what happens next at Striking Dawn.

Solid 4 out of 5 stars.

The book is released on 6th October.

I will be reading The Death of Fallowhearth next by Robbie MacNivan, I had intended it to be The Head of Mimir, but that has expired in my NetGallery account.


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