Shogun Iemitsu: War and Romance in 17th Century Tokugawa Japan
Reviewed by for Reader Views (11/09)
Michael R. Zomber’s “Shogun Iemitsu” is a truly surprising book. When I first read the introduction to it, which spoke of “war and romance in 17th century Japan,” I had no preconceived, detailed notions of what to expect, just a vague assumption that it will be something filled with a lot of blood, action and ugliness. While there were certainly enough violent moments, the overall impression was one of great beauty and considerable elegance.
Unlike the author, I am certainly no expert on art and culture of the exotic Japan, yet that did not stop me in the slightest from enjoying his incredibly detailed descriptions of minute detail filling the lives of two young samurai warriors, Hideo and Kobiyashi, as well as those who come in contact with them during a rather crucial moment in Japanese history, the suppression of a rebellion against the Tokugawa government. While “Shogun Iemitsu” focused mostly on politics and martial arts, there are lyrical moments as well, some of them involving the memories from the past as well as the present “falling in love” events.
I found the characters in the book to be believable and oddly likeable, which surprised me to a certain extent, since I’ve never been a big fan of fighting and political intrigue. The writing was extremely fluid, elegant and oftentimes quite poetic. Although written in English, it had a curiously exotic cadence to it, which in my opinion fit perfectly with the theme and the setting of the book. While I would have liked a chance to get an even deeper insight into the inner workings of the heroes’ minds, the somewhat reserved insights again felt remarkably right for this particular tale.
Overall I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Michael R. Zomber’s “Shogun Iemitsu” and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to a wide array of readers, from those who simply enjoy good writing to the ones who are fascinated by the history and culture of other countries and particularly to the readers, interested in Japan and the samurai culture.