#SPFBO Review : Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of Gensokai #1) by Virginia McClain

Blade's EdgeBlade’s Edge is one of the finalists for the SPFBO competition and my sixth book read and reviewed leaving four more contenders.

As we set out we meet Mishi and Taka, two young girls, living in an orphanage and sharing friendship and secrets.  The two of them have magical abilities that put their lives at threat but also means that the bond they share is strong.  Unfortunately the two are separated at an early age, both being taken to very different destinations and in fact spending the majority of the story apart from that point forward.

Mishi is taken to a school where warriors are trained. Her role is to be a servant by day and to secretly train as a warrior at night.  Taka finds herself in a midwifery school where she hones her healing abilities and uncovers the harsh secrets of those who rule the land. The two will eventually meet again and take a stand against the oppression they have encountered.

On the face of it this book has such a lot that I love going on.  A great setting with a Feudal Japanese feel.  Two characters learning of their own elemental magic with tree and dragon spirits (Kami) and a fairly straightforward struggle between right and wrong.  But, and I hate to have a ‘but’ as part of this review, I wasn’t as bowled over as I expected to be and I’m really struggling to put into words why that was, in fact I’ve been sitting on writing a review for a few days to see if I could unravel my feelings.

In terms of the writing.  I think the writing here is very good, it doesn’t go overboard on long, drawn out explanations or descriptions and there are no annoying info dumps. In some respects the writing style makes me ponder over whether this book is aimed at the younger side of YA, but don’t hold me to that because I might have missed things that could easily be inappropriate for a younger audience.  So, whilst I enjoyed the writing I felt like the pacing suffered for some reason and, again, I’m finding it hard to put my finger on why that is.  The only thing I can really come up with is that this jumps forward on a number of occasions and rushes over aspects of the story that I would have liked to spend more time on – which sounds very conflicted when I’m discussing pacing issues – I did say I was struggling here.

The characters.  Predominantly the story is told by Mishi and Taka.  Both girls are similar in a number of ways.  Both orphaned, both share strong magic and both are determined to uncover the untruths that govern the society in which they live.  I liked both characters, they’re both good characters, but, I wasn’t completely enamoured with them, I felt more that I liked them because they were on the side of ‘right’.  I found myself more drawn to the side characters who joined the story a little later on or at least their inclusion boosted the story a little for me.

The world building is interesting even if it does rely a little on the reader bringing some knowledge to the table.  It has a strong Japanese feel and an interesting magic system that uses the elements.  For many years only boys were believed to wield magic with any real degree of strength and those with the ability are trained as warriors and become Kisoshi.  However, as the story develops we learn that the Roju Council have been taking ‘steps’ to maintain strict secrecy around female magic.

In terms of criticisms. I think my main issue was a lack of attachment to the two main characters, I’m not sure why I didn’t become more attached to them – although I think it could be linked to the strange jumps forward in the storytelling which left me feeling as though I’d missed out on something somewhere along the line.  I also couldn’t help feeling that the two girls sometimes read too much alike which on a couple of occasions became a little confusing.

To be honest, I think this review feels more critical than I intended. This is in fact a good coming of age story, well written and with a dramatic ending. It didn’t quite work for me as well as I’d hoped but I think this could be because this is aimed at a younger audience.

Overall I would rate this as 7* out of 10.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.



4 Responses to “#SPFBO Review : Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of Gensokai #1) by Virginia McClain”

  1. travelingcloak

    Awesome review! Really thorough. I bought this book last year when researching SPFBO releases, and I am really looking forward to reading it.

  2. Tammy

    This sounds like a pretty solid story. I’m curious to read more of your finalist reviews!

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Lack of attachment to characters is a pretty tough hurdle to get through, but 7 out of 10 isn’t bad regardless!

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The premise for this story sounds intriguing – I love novels set in the Far East or on backgrounds that take inspiration from there – and from your review it looks as if its problems could be addressed by some decisive editing. Still, your rating speaks for itself… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

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