Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Sairō's Claw' blog tour brought to you by Storytellers On Tour and Virginia McClain!
'Sairō’s Claw (A Gensokai Novel)' by Virginia McClain is a multiple narrative tale following a split storyline that features sword-wielding lesbians, mind-blowing sea battles, and a grumpy wolf spirit trapped in a sword. The representations are pretty diverse, including a gender-neutral blood mage and what just might be a bit of a grey-ace ship captain (which I LOVE).
The action-adventure adult fantasy focuses largely on the converging tales of Torako and Kaiyo, encompassing those close to them on each side of the conflict.
Torako is a walking legend.. bordering on myth. She stalks the valley she calls home, dispatching would-be dangers and protecting the people who share the land. When she runs across a group of bandits who attack her and threaten her daughter, they too join the number she has defeated.. but the katana she loots off one of the corpses turns out to be possessed by a surly wolf kami.
Upon returning home from a confrontation, she finds her wife, Raku.. has been abducted and their daughter, Itachi hiding tearfully nearby. Certain she's somehow angered the spirits, she's nonetheless determined to save the love of her life. With no one to care for the child, Torako launches her campaign carrying their daughter along with her.
Kaiyo is subject to plenty of rumors of her own. As Captain of the Wind Serpent and heir to rule the land she grew up in, she's above all.. someone who follows her admirals orders. She may be rebellious at home where her mother's idea of traditions are concerned, but she's long ago carved out her place in the Kaigun military. Still, when she receives a missive commanding her to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen of the worst criminals the dungeons hold, she makes her objections known.. but again, follows orders.
This story starts out like still waters before a storm, but that peace is brief. There's a short window of time within which to get to know all the major characters a bit, and then the group is drawn inexorably toward one another. You know there's going to be a serious collision when it happens and you're not left waiting long to see it.
McClain does a beautiful job painting the textures of her characters with detailed strokes. There's incredible tenderness in some and a cool, calculating method to others. Each of the supporting characters has a fleshed-out identity, which helped me to connect with them easily and made them distinctively memorable. I definitely became quickly invested with people on both sides of the conflict.
Her action sequences are visually exciting, without being overstimulating to the point you don't even know what's happening. At times, I felt like I was on the edge of my seat watching a scene play out, hoping for certain things to occur.. or in some cases, hoping they wouldn't.
Inspired closely by feudal Japan, the world-building is elegant and deeply layered. She even includes a glossary of words either taken directly from the influence or created from it and their translated meanings, though there are also a handful of words spread throughout the book that are more common usage and not specifically defined.
Honestly, I loved this book so much I didn't even want to put it down. The prose is comfortably eloquent, but not flowery. As with everything, McClain seems to walk that fine line down the middle with ease.. giving us enough to be immersive and never throwing anything at us that will kick us out of the story and leave us head-scratching. I'm eager to see where she goes from here and highly recommend giving this a chance if you like multi-cultural adult fantasy.
Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four-legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch.
She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running through deserts, mountains, and woodlands, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. She’s also fond of word games, and writing descriptions of herself that are needlessly vague.