I recently was sent a copy of Steve Bein’s freshman effort Daughter of the Sword. I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.
I was a little reluctant at first because the protagonist is one Mariko Oshiro and it’s been my experience that with few exceptions — David Weber — men simply don’t write female characters very well. Generally what you get are men with boobs.
Color me wrong. Mariko is the only female detective on the Tokyo Metro police force and she’s run up on a rather odd case — she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, and her boss has her investigating the attempted theft of a sword.
Of course the two cases turn out to be intertwined (would have made for a boring book if they hadn’t) and the problem isn’t one sword, but three, all magical — I won’t get into how, that would be telling — at least one cursed and bodies are turning up all over town.
According to the bio on his site Bein (pronounced “Bine”) is an author, philosopher, professor, climber, photographer, translator, and world traveler. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. Bein is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also teaches courses in philosophy and science fiction.
His deep knowledge of Japanese history and culture shows as he leads us through modern Tokyo and the strange, symbiotic and quasi-official relationship between the Yakuza and the cops, and from feudal times through World War II and the history of the swords.
Daughter of the Sword reads like James Clavell’s Shogun would have if it had been crossed with high fantasy by way of a police procedural. Pick it up, it’s not only a thoughtful novel, but a deeply enjoyable read as well. I had a terrible time putting it down and am looking forward to the next book. It’s also a welcome change from the standard ruck of urban fantasy my friend Kate Paulk calls “undead porn.”
In all, this is a superb effort from a new author, polished and stylish, with few of the rough edges one expects from a new author. Available Oct. 2 from Roc.
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