The Jade Lioness

Written by Christina Courtenay
Review by Mary Fisk

Japan, 1648. The only foreigners permitted to trade are the Dutch, and then only from the island enclave of Dejima, near Nagasaki. Temperance (“Temi”) Marston has accompanied her half-Japanese cousin, Midori, and her Dutch husband, Nico, in search of adventure – but the naïve and impulsive girl is frustrated by the strictures imposed on her, both as a woman and a gai-jin.

On a reckless excursion to the mainland, she encounters Kazuo, a ronin – outlaw – on a mission to redeem his father’s lost honour. Kazuo is intrigued by this creature with her ash-blonde hair and blue eyes, whom he at first takes for a sea-sprite, but he resolves not to be distracted from his quest. When Temi is captured by less honourable ronin fate throws them together again, and Kazuo must decide whether to risk his mission to free her.

In an edge-of-the-seat romantic adventure, the fugitives try and evade both a ruthless Japanese nobleman and a vengeful Dutch trader whom Temi has spurned – all the while searching for the evidence to clear Kazuo’s father’s name. There may be slightly too many coincidences and the odd lapse into over-familiar similes (“weak as a kitten”) and overly colloquial description (e.g., our heroine dragged along “willy-nilly” by the ronin), but all in all, we have a vivid read with an exotic setting and a risk-taking heroine who is not afraid to fight for what she wants. The author’s love of Japanese culture clearly shines through.

This is the third volume of the Kumashiro trilogy, and although events in the previous books are referenced, it is not necessary to have read them. However, for those who want to find out what went before, the adventures of Temi’s aunt, Hannah, are recounted in The Scarlet Kimono (HNR 56) and those of her cousin, Midori, in The Gilded Fan (HNR 64).