To complete my New Author Challenge 2010, I need to read 1 more new author, and from the entire book on my shelf I pick White Serpent Castle by Lensey Namioka. The book is very thin, only 177 pages with big font size. It took only 2 days for me to finish it, I finished it 3 days ago but have no time to write the review right away.
The book is about 2 Ronin (Masterless samurai) in 16th century, Zenta and Matsuzo. Zenta was a famous wandering Ronin, his skill was well-known amongst other samurai. Matsuzo was younger than Zenta, he followed Zenta because of the adventure was more valuable than money. Ronin is a samurai without master that will give them money for their service. To maintain their life, they will work from one master to another master, never devoting themselves long enough to one master.
In this book, Zenta and Matsuzo were seeking for a job in Okudaira’s castle. There were rumors about the appearance of white serpent, a ghost that haunts the castle whenever something bad happened in that castle. Okudaira had passed away and the castle needed a new master. They heard rumors that the chamberlain of the castle was trying to marry Lady Tama, Okudaira’s daughter, so that he could become the master of that castle. And that was when the white serpent started appearing in the castle. On the other hand, Okudaira had appointed his heir, Yoshiteru (Lady Tama’s half brother) who was still 9 years old to be the master of the castle.
The also heard another rumor saying that Okudaira’s oldest son, Shigeteru, who had been disinherited will come to seize the power in that castle. Drawn by all those rumors, Zenta asked Matsuzo to seek for job in that castle. The moment they arrived, the chamberlain and his trusted man, Jihei, attacked them. The chamberlain was afraid that either Zenta or Matsuzo was Shigeteru in disguise.
They were saved by the envoy of the Daimyo. Zenta started sniffing around and found some conspiracies going on in the castle. Lady Tama refused to marry the Chamberlain and disagreed with letting Yoshiteru become the master of the castle because of his age and the fact that he was only her half-brother. She believed that the right man for the job was Shigeteru. Zenta found out the mystery of the white serpent at the same time when the envoy was murdered. After that incident, the battle inside the castle was unavoidable. Lady Tama along with the envoy’s men and Zeta and Matsuzo held the outer part of the castle while the chamberlain and his men held the inner part of the castle.
As I already mention before, the book is very thin…it feels like reading children’s book. It would be much better if Namioka can make it a bit thicker so that she can elaborate the fight a bit more. Zenta’s fighting techniques were interesting to read but she only gives me a flash of imagination…I want more than just a flash. The story is really good, it’s like detective in 16th century, Zenta is a very smart samurai. And I love the ending, Namioka can write a good twist at the end, the ending caught me of guard and I really like that. Zenta’s character will give more impression if Namioka gives extra room for him to develop. Matsuzo’s part in the story is not as strong as Zenta’s. The lack of this book lies in its thinness.
My rating is .
A brief on the author
Lensey Namioka was born in Beijing, China. Her family moved to the US when she as eight. She attended public schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Radcliffe College and the University of California in Berkeley, she majored in mathematics. She taught matemathic before turning to writing. She lives in Seattle with her mathematician husband, who is a Japanese. They have two daughters and three grand children.