“Exotic, entertaining . . . [an] exceptional first novel.”—San Francisco Chronicle
The year is 1861. After two centuries of isolation, Japan has opened its doors to the West. And as foreign ships threaten to rain destruction on the Shogun’s castle in Edo, a small group of American missionaries has arrived to spread the word of their God. They have yet to realize that their future in Japan has already been foreseen. For a young nobleman has dreamt that his life will be saved by an outsider in the New Year. . . and it is said that Lord Genji has the gift of prophecy. What happens next—when the handsome lord meets an appa rently reformed gunslinger and a woman in flight from her own destructive beauty—sets the stage for a remarkable adventure. For as this unlikely band embarks on a journey through a landscape bristling with danger, East and West, flesh and spirit, past and future, collide in ways no one—least of all Genji—could have imagined.
Praise for Cloud of Sparrows
“The book seizes you from start to finish.”—The Washington Post
“Rich . . . with an ambitious, unexpected ending that cuts deeper than a samurai sword.”—San Francisco Chronicle
A tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that's of exceptional importance to our readers but hasn't received a starred or boxed review.CLOUD OF SPARROWSTakashi Matsuoka. Delacorte, (405p) Matsuoka's ambitious first novel is an epic saga of clashing personalities and ideologies in the tradition of Shogun, yet it distinguishes itself from its wide-eyed predecessor with a grimmer perspective on Japan's military culture. Set in Edo in 1861, the book chronicles the arrival of a group of American missionaries (two men and a woman, each hiding secrets) into a land bristling with feudal clans nursing ancient grudges and a central shogunate trying to maintain control in the face of corrosive Western influences (like Christianity). The young Lord Genji, a modern heir to the embittered Okumichi clan and its rulers' gift of prophetic vision, receives the missionaries as his guests. Their visit coincides with an effort by the Shogun's secret-police chief to destroy Genji, which leads to the accidental killing of one of the missionaries. In response, Genji, his mad uncle Shigeru (tortured with visions of "swarms of metallic insects," which presage the devastation of WWII), and Genji's lover, the devastatingly beautiful geisha Heiko, join forces with innocent American missionary Emily Gibson and Matt Stark, also an American, who is hiding under the mission's aegis while he hunts down a man who wronged him long ago, to stave off the imperial assassins and restore the honor of the clan. The novel boasts plenty of Edo-era pomp and pageantry, as well as some nicely convoluted court intrigue and lightly handled romance. But the author's central message appears to be a rebuke of the narrow-mindedness of the isolationist feudal tradition in Japan and its bloody track record: "It is our duty to ensure that all looting, murdering, and enslaving in Japan is done by us alone. Otherwise, how can we call ourselves Great Lords?"