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The Tokaido Road: 12/19/06

Tokaido Road

The Tokaido Road was the main connecting highway between Japan's two capitals: Tokyo and Kyoto. The novel of the same name takes place on that same highway as "Cat" flees after the poisoning of one of her clients and goes in search of Oishi, her only hope in avenging the death of her father and clearing her own name. Along the way she must fight off agents of Lord Kira but she will find help in the most unlikely of places.

If that's not enough, she's also a noblewoman in disguise and trained in various arts and fighting techniques. It sounds exciting but it is too over-written. It reads like fan fiction of any of a number of anime series except that so much detail is thrown in that even the fight scenes take a long time to read and therefore seem to go in slow motion. Robson clearly did enough research to know the Japanese terms for all the things she's describing but she writes her book assuming an audience ignorant of Japanese culture and so she wastes extra words on describing simple things rather than just naming them.

There is also the problem of what exactly Cat knows and what she doesn't. She knows how to fight like a samurai and how to disguise herself like a dirt poor man but she doesn't have any concept of money or other basic survival techniques. She seems to randomly forget what things are or how the world works to give the author a vehicle for further info dumping in the form of flowery descriptions or melodramatic dialogue.

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

I have to stop reading historical fiction, especially those based around actual people rather than just set in a certain time period; they just bug me. I got so tired of wading through all the lengthy descriptions of the different Japanese costumes. Good lord, just call them by what they are actually called, put a dictionary in the back of the book and move on. Please no more lengthy descriptions of what every single Japanese meal tastes like! Please no more haiku (even if it is written by a Master)! Please no more random use of Japanese words when 90% of what people are saying is in English; or at least be consistent . If every other major character's name is kept in Japanese (albeit transliterated), then leave the main character's in transliterated Japanese. Her name isn't Cat; it's Neko.

My final thoughts on this book; save yourself the trouble of slogging through every detail and watch some anime instead (subbed, not dubbed). You'll learn just as much and probably be better entertained.

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