The Tengu's Game of Go (The Tale of Shikanoko #4)
by Lian Hearn
Review by Judy Newton
FSG Originals Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780374536343
Date: 27 September 2016 List Price $13.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Go is a game of strategy, of capturing territory; a metaphor for the movement of armies and magical travelers across the landscape of this mythical medieval Japan. Fate drives characters to realize their destinies, as order is restored at last (as you knew it would be), and the rightful Emperor ascends the throne.
Shikanoko spent much of the last book sulking in seclusion because his deer mask, the source of his supernatural power, had become magically affixed to his face. Only the hand of true love can remove it. (Does this sound a little mawkish? It's one of those plot devices that creak ever so slightly.) But that hand turns out to belong to Hina, the beautiful and talented girl who had been separated from Shikanoko years ago. Will they realize that they belong together?
As Shikanoko evolves into and ultimately redeems himself as a tragic hero, his son Takeyoshi emerges as a more sympathetic and ultimately triumphant spirit. It is his sword that wins the game of Ultimate Go and saves the Emperor from the evil tengu. Equally importantly, he persuades the reluctant Emperor that he must indeed fulfill his destiny and rule. Heaven is pleased; the land is saved from drought; all is harmonious.
The many strands of the story come together in most satisfying conclusions for all those characters the reader has come to care about, although the Dragon Child remains disappointingly opaque after all, with only one short appearance. It's dramatic, though, as all of them are.
For readers of Lian Hearn's previous Otori novels, the many foreshadowings hold special significance. The beginnings of the Tribe, the nascent cult of the Secret God, even the origin of the Otori crest are all explored. Those who have not discovered her signature brand of exotic setting and intricate plotting, however, need not hesitate to start with this series.