The Shogun’s Daughter

Written by Laura Joh Rowland
Review by Richard Bourgeois

The Shogun’s daughter has died a victim of smallpox, and with her the possibility of an heir. But all is not lost! Yoshisato, son of court advisor Yanagisawa, was really the Shogun’s bastard all along. The desperate Shogun chooses to believe this improbable tale and recognizes Yoshisato as his heir. Yanagisawa’s status rises at the expense of his enemy, Sano Ichiro. Sano believes the Shogun’s daughter was murdered, possibly by Yanagisawa himself, and he intends to prove it – treading carefully, lest his meddling in the succession doom his entire family.

The intrigues and backdoor dealings of the Shogun’s court are woven well. However, Sano’s setbacks at the hands of Yanagisawa’s faction make him an ineffective protagonist. He sulks and even considers abandoning the samurai code, leaving the junior members of his household to do much of the detective work. Meanwhile, Sano’s prodigal retainer fights a secret society of mystical martial artists in a story entirely unconnected to the murder plot. No doubt all of this fits into the grand scheme of the long-running and very successful Sano Ichiro series; as a stand-alone novel, I found it unsatisfying.