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An ambitious warlord leaves his nephew for dead and seizes his lands.
A stubborn father forces his younger son to surrender his wife to his older brother.
A mysterious woman seeks five fathers for her children.
A powerful priest meddles in the succession to the Lotus Throne.
These are the threads of an intricate tapestry in which the laws of destiny play out against a backdrop of wild forest, elegant court, and savage battlefield. Set in a mythical medieval Japan inhabited by warriors and assassins, ghosts and guardian spirits, Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn is a brilliantly imagined novel, full of drama and intrigue – the beginning of an enthralling, epic adventure: The Tale of Shikanoko.
In this series opener, Hearn (Heaven's Net Is Wide) takes inspiration from Japanese classics to tell a tale of warring clans and unusual magic. There has been friction between the Kakizuki and Miboshi clans for years, and now it is all coming to a head. The emperor's life is failing and each clan supports a different son as his successor. Into these grand events steps the young man Kumayama no Kazumaru, once heir of his clan but now dispossessed by his uncle and left for dead in the Darkwood. He is rescued there by the mountain sorcerer, Shisoku, but also transformed by strange rituals. Now called Shikanoko, "the deer's child," and possessing a magical stag mask, he struggles to direct his fate. Shikanoko is captured, released, instructed, and controlled by a series of lords and wise men, coming ever closer to mastery of his forest power. Eventually, his own destiny becomes entwined with that of the empire. This fast-paced tale of dynastic change intriguingly sets up the remaining three books in the series.