I was contacted through my website to review a new book that was coming out by a pagan author with Shinto and Japanese overtones. I was overjoyed to do so since I have quite a bit of interest in Inari (the Fox Goddess) and thought it would be very different from what I normally review.

When I got it, I became more enthused to review this book since the back said it had a lot to do with magic and action in a pivotal period of Japan.

From the back cover:

In twelfth century Japan, Seiko Fujiwara, a young woman believed to be a sorceress, is caught in a deadly conflict between the Heike and the Genji, two clans battling for control of the throne. The peaceful Heian period is giving way to the rise of the Samurai; Japan trembles on the edge of a time of darkness.

Seiko’s mother, priestess of Inari, the deity of abundance and sorcery, predicts that if Lord Kiyomori’s daughter Tokushi, Seiko’s closest friend, becomes Empress and gives birth to the next Emperor, their world will be saved.

If he lives…

It is Seiko’s responsibility to make sure the prophecy comes true.

Journey with Seiko as she navigates through a world of assassins, palace intrigue, warfare and enchantments, struggling to honor her giri, her sacred destiny, while longing for the fulfillment of love.

I read the promotional materials that came with this book, and it sold another such tale, a tale of magic and action, intrigue and politics, weaving a tapestry of a girl caught up in an adventure that would make Samwise Gamgee nervous and longing for his garden.

When I started reading this book, I was in for a crushing disappointment.

Don’t misunderstand me or the fine authors who have contributed to the cover reviews and praise, The Fox Sorceress is lavishly written and well researched. It is simply that the book is actually about things other than it is advertised as.

For being a book of sorcery and political intrigue, there is very little of any of those elements in it. Mostly it is about Seiko’s “Golden Gulley”, to be crude, her vagina. Sex is the predominant element in this book. Seiko has sex with everything, if it moves, she is screwing it, fucking it, being fucked by it or teaching it how to fuck her.

Yes, the book opens with assassins killing her mother. Then it moves to her marriage to a man who is into SadoMachosim and who tortures her in the bed while “making love” and him getting a concubine that he does the same thing to. From there, she and the concubine escape and go to the now-Empress’s (Seiko’s best friend Tokushi) court in Kyoto to stay with her. There she makes love to the Empress, the Empress’s ladies in waiting, the servants, clients she works with in healing, her bestest best friend forever, her BFF’s husband (with her blessing), several courtiers and also the a couple scribes.

Why does she do this? She wants to. She is attracted by poetry and witty repartee’ (which actually seems to be her sorceress power, since the only evidence of this is her “healing hands” and her herbal knowledge) and quoting of obscure poetry. Seiko becomes the scribe for half the ladies-in-waiting since they aren’t nearly as witty as she is, and since Seiko is not very attractive for a Japanese lady, she doesn’t have that many suitors to take up her time.

This book braids the plotline of Cyrano de Bergerac, Svengali and an old fashioned bodice ripper with the backdrop of a Japanese novel. I was expecting Shogun or Mussashi, but I kept reading about ripping bodices, I mean kimonos, and steaming shafts plundering nether caverns. Then Seiko goes and births another baby, comes home and listens to the Empress whine about not being pregnant.

That is pretty much the entire plot of the book. Interspersed in that line of writing is a major fire in Kyoto, Seiko pining for her daughter, commiserations from the court over the death of Seiko’s husband, some passing mentions of armies gathering in the North, and so on.

Honestly? If I hadn’t promised to review this book, I would have quit about 2/3 of the way through. It looked like the plot would pick up and start being about what the cover blurb said it would be about there, but then we go back to Seiko being pregnant with her BFF’s husband’s baby and you don’t see any more actual plot until the very last 5 pages.

If what you are looking for is a romance novel set in Japan with a bit of a backdrop of the times, then you will probably love this book. But if you purchase it for what the promotional materials say it is, then you are going to be very disappointed.

I am not rating this book on a scale of 1-5 stars. I do this because it is not the author’s or the book’s fault that it is being mis-advertised. The promo materials say it is one thing, but the actual content is something else. So I will leave you with this review without further comment.

(Other than that, I really did like the book. The narrative flowed well, the situations were real, the romance sweet and the writing clean.)

~review by Daven

Author: Cerridwen Fallingstar

Cauldron Publications, 2009
356 pages, $19.95


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