Betrayal of mind. Betrayal of power. Betrayal of heart.
For centuries the Rōjū council silenced all who opposed them, spreading lies and killing innocents, ensuring female Kisōshi were little more than a myth. Now, with the corrupt council deposed, the land of Gensokai reels, taking its first steps towards recovery. The New Council attempts to corral renegade allies, and Taka takes charge of a frontline infirmary, placing her in the heart of the battle. But to survive, she will have to rely on a person she cannot possibly trust.
Meanwhile, Mishi sets out to lure a vicious band of mountain raiders into the open. Many have tried to subdue them, and so far all have failed. Yet she battles more than bandits. Her mind betrays her, and she fears it is only a matter of time before her kisō and katana turn against her too.
Surrounded by enemies and thwarted at every turn, can Mishi and Taka survive long enough to bring peace to their fractured homeland?
Traitor’s Hope is the sequel to Blade’s Edge which I read last month. I was excited to return to the fantasy world of Gensokai in order to continue the story of the amazingly powerful healer Taka, and Mishi, the extraordinary young warrior, and the people who love them.
Events begin soon after the battle at Rōjū City. A new council is in place with Tsuku in charge. Mitsu is sent on a mission with Mishi to find bands of Roju-allied warbands terrorizing villages and razing them to the ground wherever they expect female Kisōshi are being harbored. They are still loyal to the old order and many villages are handing over the female children with kisō to avoid destruction. The New Council has its work cut out to change the old male-dominated ways:
“The supposed ‘threat’ of women with power rising up and taking over is what made the Rōjū Council accept the laws that killed newborn babes in the cradle for centuries. It makes sense that they would continue to use that mindset, even with their hired mercenaries.”
Mishi is struggling with PTSD and dangerous nightmares and visions which take her right back to the battle she fought in at Rōjū City and she is worried she will react violently and kill one of her beloved traveling companions. Taka and Mitsu want to help her and decide their tree spirit mentor Yanagi-sensei might be able to help more than they can. Yanagi-sensei was one of my favourite things about Blade’s Edge and it was fantastic to have him back in this book:
A face—was it still a face when it consisted of bark and moss?—came into view then, and Mishi knew that she must be meeting Yanagi-sensei, Taka and Mitsu’s longtime mentor. She sat up and slowly took in the bark that shaped itself into a nose and mouth, eyes the color of hardened tree sap, bushy eyebrows of moss and lichen, and the body of what looked like a willow tree. It had as many long, arced and trailing branches as would be found on any normal willow, but also seemed to have legs, or something approximating them.”
The budding friendship between Mishi and the 21 year old Mitsu is very sweet and respectful. It is delightful to see their mutual respect develop into something more as they travel together and become quite the double act, in terms of fighting. Mishi is only sixteen, but she has seen so much fear, loss of loved ones, war and violence in her short life that I was really happy she eventually allowed herself to be cared for and to develop her own feelings for Mitsu too.
Taka is possibly the most talented healer in Gensokai and is sent on a mission to the front lines to head up a team of healers. She has to overcome extreme prejudice towards female Kisōshi, but luckily her training and past experiences have stood her in good stead and Kusuko becomes an invaluable bodyguard and support to her.
Kusuko was my favourite character, a complicated, many-layered assassin with a chequered past working undercover as a prostitute or “daughter of the winds”, in this book we learn more of her difficult childhood and relationship with her cruel and uncompromising father, the chief spymaster and leader of the assassins, Mamushi-san. She is petite and looks like a beautiful doll but this appearance belies her strength, agility and quick-witted reactions befitting the top assassin in the realm. It is never clear throughout the story whether or not Kusuko can be trusted. Does she even trust herself? We discover as the story progresses that she is not as heartless and immune to feelings as she and her father like to believe, despite all of her training:
“She had always thought of herself as a snake, shedding its skin with each identity she left behind, and growing into a new one, but now…now she felt rather more like a phoenix. She had burned through everything within her, emerging as something entirely new and unexplored.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of strong women in a harsh and uncompromising world dominated by men.
About the Author
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.