by David Kirk
One day, he will be known as the legendary Musashi Miyamoto, but before he was one of the great samurai he was just a boy...
Bennosuke's father, the powerful warrior Munisai, abandoned him years ago to fight his master's wars. The boy grew up in under the watchful eyes of villagers who feared and ignored him. He was given a rudimentary education in the ways of the samurai by an old warrior while his uncle did his best to convince the child that a life tending to others would be better. But Bennosuke cannot be turned from the way of his samurai. When his father finally returns, Bennosuke learns the horrible truth of his family tree, and a rash action on his part ends up costing his father his life. Bennosuke, now a renegade samurai, becomes fully focused on revenge, even as the politics of feudal Japan threaten to tear the country apart.
Musashi Miyamoto's career as a samurai is relatively well-documented. He's the author of The Book of Five Rings, a classic martial arts treatise. His childhood, however, is only thinly sketched in surviving documents, and it is in Miyamoto's formative years that David Kirk sets Child of Vengeance. I'm not too familiar with Japanese history, so I cannot comment on how accurately Kirk sticks to facts, but the world he creates certainly drew me in. I believed in Bennosuke and his potential for greatness, and I wanted to see him succeed, first in his training to join his father as a samurai, and then in his desperate quest to avenge his father's death. Kirk brings feudal Japan vivdly to life, highlighting the strict caste system that stratified society and the strict codes followed by the warrior class.
I also enjoyed the contrast in the philosophy and way of life provided by the two male role models in Bennosuke's life – his father, the warrior and his uncle, the monk. Although the romance of a warrior's life proves irresistible to Bennosuke, the lessons he absorbed from his uncle led him to be more compassionate, and eventually it enabled him to see the way in which the samurai code helped keep the warrior class under the control of the nobility.
The book ends with the battle of Sekigahara, a bloody conflict that allowed Ieyasu Tokugawa to take the shogunate and take control of Japan. Miyamoto was still quite young at the time – still a teenager in this version of his story, although I've seen other accounts place him in his twenties. A sequel, Hours of the Dog, is expected to be released sometime next spring.
4.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Child of Vengeance, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, Part Two by Gene Luen Yang and others
2011: Impressionistic Whales: Christopher Moore and Flip Nicklin
2010: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
2009: Giveaway #12: Sorrow Wood by Raymond Atkins
2008: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway