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Gatherer of Clouds by Sean Russell
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Gatherer of Clouds (1992)

by Sean Russell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Initiate Brother (2)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Gatherer of Clouds is the sequel to Sean Russell’s The Initiate Brother, a story which is not so much about the Initiate Brother Shuyun, spiritual advisor to Lord Shonto, as it is about the entire Shonto household — a household that is seen as a threat by an insecure emperor. And with good reason, for Lord Shonto is an honorable, intelligent, and insightful man who has raised his children to be his equals and who has surrounded himself with a competent and loyal staff and several clever allies.

As the story opens, Shonto, governor of the northern province of She, is preparing for a massive barbarian invasion that the emperor refuses to believe in (since he only paid for a small invasion in order to get rid of Shonto). Should Shonto stay in the north, as ordered, and be wiped out by the barbarian horde? Or should he let his province fall and retreat toward the capital to raise an army that may have a chance to defeat the invaders? This latter option seems the only way to save the empire of Wa, but the emperor will certainly declare treason if Shonto starts recruiting soldiers. There are hard choices and harder sacrifices to make, not just for Shonto, but for everyone involved.

While reading Gatherer of Clouds, I was completely immersed in the lives of Lord Shonto, Brother Shuyun, Lady Nishima, Lord Komawara, and the Jaku brothers, as well as the beauty and elegance of their lifestyles. Each of Sean Russell’s diverse set of characters is vivid, unique, and realistic, and they all learn much about themselves and each other as the stress ramps up. Because we spend so much time with them, and because they feel so real, their inner struggles become our inner struggles. Would we be willing to sacrifice love for duty? When is it right to disobey (or murder!) a sovereign ruler? Are there times when it is better to kill than to heal? What is true religion and how do we recognize when it has become corrupt? When does loyalty become dishonorable? When principles conflict, how do we know which principle is highest? I found myself considering each of these questions as I read Gatherer of Clouds.

In addition to making us think about some tough ideas, Russell also shows us how legends are made. Every one of his characters has the potential to become either a hero or a villain, and Russell shows us that it’s our daily choices that add up to determine our destiny and how we’ll be perceived by history.

If you enjoy character-centered epic fantasy with lots of political intrigue, Sean Russell’s The Initiate Brother is a great choice. I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version and can recommend this format. This was my first experience with Sean Russell’s writing, but I’ll definitely be exploring more of his work in the future. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
This sequel to [Initiate Brother] is every bit as promising as the first novel.

War closes in on the Empire from within and without, the maddened Emperor refuses to see the trap he has built for himself and nearly takes the entire empire down with him. However the sheer genius and tactical maneuverings of the Shonto family just might see the successful conclusion of all of their plans....

Excitement, intrigue, love, war, and the game of the Imperial Courts...when foes become friends and House Shonto must defend the empire against the Emperor's "allies" before the empire is crushed by barbarian hordes, choices must be made that will rock the Bothivist faith to its foundations.

Surrounded by war and his own tumultuous emotions, the young monk finally discovers the truth behind his name, his destiny, and all of the doubts he had picked up in his relationships with the senior monks of his order. Now a sole practitioner of a sect that had been destroyed as heretic centuries before he arrives at the feel of the new Master, one who has affected the course of his life and those of the family he loves.

Sean Russel blurs the line between enlightenment and deceit, nirvana and blasphemy in this conclusion to Nishima and Shyun's story. The ending is perhaps one of the most hopeful, yet bittersweet endings I have read in a long time. ( )
2 vote Valkitty | Feb 24, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sean Russellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tobin, PatMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It is the season of war. As the plum blossom winds herald spring in the Empire of Wa, Initiate Brother Shuyun, spiritual advisor to Lord Shonto, the military governor of the northernmost province of Seh, receives a shocking message from the barbarian lands. The massive army of the Golden Khan is poised at their border. Forced to retreat south, Lord Shonto is caught between the pursuing barbarian hordes and his own hostile emperor's Imperial Army. Meanwhile, the beautiful young Lady Nishima again becomes involved in court intrigue as well as in a dangerous romantic liaison. Even as this trap closes on Shonto and his allies, Brother Shuyun faces a crisis of his own. For in the same scroll that warned of the invasion was a sacred udumbara blossom, a sign his order has awaited for a thousand years, a sign that the Great Teacher has finally been reborn. And now it may fall to one young monk with extraordinary powers to save his empire.… (more)

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