Tiger Lily (Tiger Lily #1) by K. Bird Lincoln #SPFBO

Posted On 21 April 2018

Filed under #SPFBO, Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 12 responses

Tiger Lily inspired mixed reactions in me.  It has so many elements that I love.  I was especially looking forward to reading a story set in ancient Japan and in that respect this story doesn’t disappoint at all.  The writing is beautiful, really really lovely and very easy to read.  And yet, for some reason, and I can barely put my finger on it I didn’t find myself loving this as much as I expected which is a real shame.

The story is told by Lily.  Born in the year of the Tiger, Lily is the outcast, the ugly duckling of the piece and something of a tomboy.  She’s always striking off into the woods to try and find some extra food to supplement the tiny amount that her family has to survive on.  These were very harsh times and life was certainly cheap.  Lily lives in a small and poor village and although her family have a little more kudos because of their father’s position as cook to the noble family their lives are still hard.  The year of the Tiger is not one you want to be born in as a female and although Lily tries hard and loves her family the year of her birth will always cast a dark shadow over everything she does.

Basically, one day, whilst Lily is yet again in the forest, in spite of her father’s express wishes for her to not go there, she stumbles upon trouble.  The Daimyo’s son, Ashikaga, has been wounded by the Pretender Emperor’s men and Lily saves his life by calling on the spirits.  The Emperor has forbidden the worship of Jindo Gods with Buddhism being the practiced religion.  Lily’s mother, before she disappeared, taught her the songs that attract the spirits and Lily still sings these when she’s alone in the woods.  However, in saving Ashikaga’s life her secret has been revealed placing her in a vulnerable position.  If exposed she will be executed.

The conflict in the story revolves around religion.  The Pretend Emperor believes in the old ways and prays to the spirits.  The spirits are in everything, in the rocks, the mountains, the trees and the rivers but the songs of worship are largely forgotten.  Lily’s ability to sing to the spirits could become a turning point in the war between the old religion and the new and both sides would seek to use her gifts for their own ends.

My favourite aspect of this story is the writing.  The prose is a real treat to read and the descriptions are just wonderful.  I loved reading about the place, how people lived and how everything worked.  It just really felt like the time and the era came to life on the page and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect.  I liked Lily – at first – she started to wear me down a little as the story progressed, but more of that to follow and there is a love story thrown into the mix.  Now, I freely admit that I’m not a lover of romance however if it’s not the main focus of the story I think it can play an important part and I would say that’s the case with Tiger Lily.   Without wanting to give too much away Lily and the noble born Ashikaga develop feelings for each other and whilst that might feel a little predictable there is an element of surprise to the relationship that I didn’t foresee.

So, why didn’t this quite work for me.  I think firstly Lily started to annoy me.  I understand that in this setting she’s a peasant, she has no place conversing with nobility and I could completely understand the fear and awe that she was swamped with when faced with certain situations.  I also understand the arrogance of the nobility, the privileged lives they led and the way that they lacked feelings or empathy for their lowly subjects.  But, as the story develops, as Lily and Ashikaga develop their own feelings I wanted something more.  I wanted Lily’s Tiger nature to burst out, it felt like she was more akin to a kitten than a tiger – yes, I appreciate that her life has been hard but although she starts out as something of a rebel, a tomboy and not particularly interested in gaining the good thoughts of the others from the village I felt that her own personality waned as the story progressed.  Put simply, although Lily saved Ashikaga’s life, and in spite of her being able to call the spirits I felt like her character became weaker and her actions more questionable as the narrative unfolded.

Tiger Lily is a relatively short story (I think under 300 pages) and it did feel like a quick read but at the same time this meant that the other characters felt a bit flat and the ending felt a bit rushed and a tad disappointing.

I certainly wouldn’t discourage others from reading this book.  I think the writing is really impressive.  For me, the plot felt it needed some more thought and the characters needed to be more fleshed out, particularly Lily who seemed to become a shadow of herself the more involved she became.  I understand that this is the first book in a series and I would read more, just to see if Lily really embraces her tiger nature and to see if a real spark ignites between her and Ashikaga.

I would like to thank the author for providing a copy of Tiger Lily.

I rated this 6 out of 10 which equates to 3 out of 5 on Goodreads.




12 Responses to “Tiger Lily (Tiger Lily #1) by K. Bird Lincoln #SPFBO”

  1. Tammy

    I love the idea of using a Chinese birth year as a take off point for a story, but it sounds like the author could have done more with it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I a way it’s a shame, I really thought this one was going to be a standout for me. The writing is lovely and I enjoyed the setting and time period. It was a pity that Lily didn’t live up to her name a little more. She was definied by her Tiger year of birth, everything she did people put down to that very thing but then she seemed to lose any momentum she started with. It still made for good reading but at the end of the story I just remained somehow not as happy as I wanted to be. I don’t even really think I can define why.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Watering down the main character does not sound like a great narrative strategy, from my point of view, but I think the details of the background might make up a little for this flaw. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      No problem. I didn’t dislike this – it’s a good book and well written, I’ll definitely keep my eye on this author. I just felt like something was missing. Maybe the next book in this series will rectify things.
      Lynn 😀

  3. vacuouswastrel

    Is there a real time period involved here, or is it just a mishmash of ideas? You say “ancient”, and the idea of a conflict between Buddhism and Shinto sounds ancient, but if there are daimyo it’s presumably relatively modern – certainly long after Kukai’s synthesis of the two religions. Indeed, have Buddhism and Shinto ever been at odds? I thought the whole point of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan was that it was done by co-opting Shinto rather than opposing it?

    …clearly I’m not the target audience for this subgenre!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I couldn’t really say – I’m afraid that what I know about this period of history you could fit on a postage stamp and still have room to spare. I read it just for the fantasy nature of the book – and obviously it’s one of the SPFBO books – how or whether or not it sticks faithfully to any periods in history is a mystery to me but I always figure that if an author is writing a fictional novel then they might manipulate things to suit their purposes and so that could very well be the case here. The worship of the spirits in this book is called Jindo – presumably that’s loosely based on Shinto?? I found it interesting to read about anyhow but perhaps the author has changed things slightly so that she can write about a conflict, the Emperor introducing Buddhism vs the Pretend Emperor who still worships Jindo. It was quite a good premise but for me Tiger Lily doesn’t quite work – I wanted Lily to grasp the nettle – or the initiative! The writing is good though.
      Lynn 😀

  4. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn – it sounds like this is an author worth keeping an eye on, even though this one wasn’t wholly successful.

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Oh, a shame about the character. This one had a lot of promise, but I think I would find myself annoyed with Tiger Lily too. A protagonist who actually feels weaker over time…hmm, I think I’d find myself wanting to keep screaming at her to grow a backbone!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, that’s how I felt about her tbh – others might feel different. I understood her meekness but then I just wanted her to have a moment and it never quite happened. I really enjoyed the writing and will look out for the next book.
      Lynn 😀

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    […] Herman,  Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S Pembroke, Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, Tiger Lily by K BIrd Lincoln and Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black. My […]

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    […] Herman,  Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S Pembroke, Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, Tiger Lily by K BIrd Lincoln,  Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black ad […]

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