Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein (Roc, Oct. 2012)-If you had told me a year ago that I would enjoy a fantasy novel that goes back and forth from present day to Feudal Japan, I would have given you a strange look. However, my horizons have broadened quite a bit in the last year where my reading is concerned, so maybe it wasn’t a huge surprise that I enjoyed Daughter of the Sword as much as I did. Mariko Oshiro is the only female detective in Tokyo’s police force and all she wants is to be on the Narcotics squad. Unfortunately, her lieutenant isn’t all that thrilled about having a woman on the force, and seems determined to keep her from the promotion she wants, and thinks that he can keep her out of trouble by putting her on the case of an attempted theft of an ancient sword. Little does Mariko know that this case will throw her in the middle of a gang war and introduce her to a man that will change her life forever. Lest you think I’m talking about a romantic entanglement, you’d be wrong. Daughter of the Sword is refreshingly free of those. Instead, when Mariko meets the owner of the sword in question, Professor Yasuo Yamada, he offers to teach her how to wield the sword, a sword that is said to be cursed. Not only is Mariko to handle this case, but she’s concerned about her sister, who is a drug addict, and who eventually disappears, and a series of sword killings that seem to be targeting gang members.
The 900 year old sword that Mariko trains with is actually one of three swords created by the famed Inazuma and are said to be cursed and blessed, depending on which sword you’re talking about. The book tells the story not only of Mariko, but of the various swords as they were handed down during the centuries in Japan, and how they affected the men (emphasis on “men”) that brandished them. The history is fascinating, and the amount of research that this must have required is impressive, because you’ll swear that you’re there, among the warriors that wield such powerful swords, and where honor and destiny are entwined. Destiny and fate are big themes in this book, not only where the swords are concerned, but for Mariko, as well. She’s a woman in a man’s world that strives for acceptance and is also frequently called gaijin for the amount of time she’s spent in the states, but she’s a force to be reckoned with. This is a fantastic blend of historical with police procedural, and its heroine is as smart as she is tenacious. I moved right along to the second book in the series, The Year of the Demon, and can’t wait for Disciple of the Wind, which is out tomorrow.
This is a wonderful read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.