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Shike: Last of the Zinja by Robert Shea

Shike: Last of the Zinja (1981)

by Robert Shea

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I said a bit condescendingly in my review of the first part of Shike: Time of the Dragons that this wasn't quite a five star book, and I could smile at someone on LibraryThing tagging it as "trashy." So be it. It's true I don't in the end find this as moving as the author's All Things Are Lights, and no one will mistake this for a work of literary fiction, certainly. Shea's style doesn't awe with beauty, and his structure is straightforward. But the narrative flows, it's never dull, often suspenseful, and this is a true page-turner. It's also true as noted in the review of the first book, that this does conflate Japanese history, mashing together the Gempei War (1180–1185) and the threatened Mongol invasions (1259-1281), using pseudonyms for historical figures, and taking other liberties. But it's obviously well-researched and there are few or no good historical novels that don't play with historical events for the purpose of a good story--and this is a good story.

The title character Jebu makes an appealing hero, and his love Taniko is an intelligent, strong-willed and resourceful heroine. If I have any complaints in her regard it's that this book sure doesn't pass the "Bechdel Test." (Test of female presence in fiction--that there be at least one scene between at least two women where what they discuss doesn't concern their relationship with a man.) There are affecting friendships between men here, but not between women. Taniko is the only notable female character.

But the bottom line is this is an engrossing epic tale, with great action and adventure that never lets up but never seems forced. It's a terrific read--which you can read for free since Shea's son has made the complete Shike available to read online here. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Feb 25, 2012 |
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