My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book. Set in mediaeval Japan, it tells the story of rival clans whose blood feud has endured for many years, and the fate of their sons and daughters who have to choose between family loyalty with its rigid burdens of honour, or loyalty to friends and lovers – and deeper magical forces.
The dragons of the title, Ebb and Flood, are bound to serve the Emperor of Cipangu by two precious pearls, the Tide Jewels.
The jewels underpin the power of the Emperor, so when renegade clansmen steal the jewels for their own ends, the race is on to find them before the Emperor learns of their loss, bringing disgrace and death to their guardians.
Lively and readable, the story cracks along at a swift pace. The characters are likeable and believable and there is a real sense of jeopardy that keeps one turning the page. The mystery behind the theft of the jewels keeps the reader guessing.
Human characters like the protagonist Kai – the lame monk who is also a nobleman – mingle with fox-spirits or Kitsune, deities, and even a terrifying fire-demon or shikigami.
The story presents a web of complex loyalties, between friends, lovers and rival clans, with honour and the fear of disgrace an important force. No-one is perfect, not even the gods. When the true villain is revealed at the end, it brings a satisfying denouement.