Monday, September 3, 2012
Samurai Awakening by Benjamin Martin
So it was with some trepidation that I started reading Samurai Awakening. I wondered, how would you make it plausible for an American to become a Samurai? But I needn't have worried, this book exceeded my expectations. It's a must-read!
Before I start my usual ramble on character and plot, can I talk about how happy I was that Japanese was included in the first few chapters? (before David, the protagonist, understood Japanese). It wasn't some random word in romaji too, it was a proper sentence, with kanji! And the way they translated the sentence into English wasn't a literal translation, but something like how we would translate for people. That was probably the defining section of the first chapter that caused me to fall in love with this book. I was actually jumping about in my room screaming about this!
Character-wise, it was great too! David isn't a Gary Sue (thankfully). He's a gaijin, but he's a gaijin that's willing to learn and adapt. He might have been a bit annoying in the beginning, especially when he didn't seem to try and fit in, but I have days where I feel like that, so I can't criticise much. The Japanese characters all have diverse personalities and are clearly not stereotypes. In particular, I thought the change in Natsuki's character was really interesting.
Plot-wise, it was interesting. I might be repeating myself a lot, but it felt like the first book in the series. There might be too much introduction for some people, but I enjoyed reading about how David grows into a true warrior. It's not an action book, but it's definitely interesting.
With regards to accuracy, well, most, if not all, of the modern Japanese culture touched upon felt accurate to me. When the book switched to oni, obake, youkai and the mythological legends of Japan, I'm pretty sure a lot of creative license was taken. So if you're fanatical about having your mythologies accurate, you might feel frustrated at this point.
And while I was so happy to see that Kendo would be playing a part, it's clear that this kendo is completely different from the kind I learn (I think it's made up too). But, it's quite interesting to read about it, and it wasn't mentioned that much. But for this, I would have preferred if a more general term was used (like 武道 budou - the way of the warrior) rather than a specific discipline since creative liberties were taken.
If you're a fan of Japan, you have to read this book!
Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.