The Tengu’s Game of Go: Book 4 in the Tale of Shikanoko Series

Written by Lian Hearn
Review by Viviane Crystal

“All the pieces were in their positions, and flames were charring the edges. It was time to act… The tengu had already told him what he was to do: join forces with your brother; find Shikanoko, and offer him these forces so the Emperor might be restored and Heaven placated.” The nature of the ancient Japanese game of go is to surround the enemy on all sides so as to remove an impending threat.

In Lian Hearn’s final novel in the Shikanoko series, the previous major and minor players converge for the final battle to recover Japan’s true Divine Emperor, Yasunori.  However, not only do his opponents vie for victory, but Yasunori rejects the imperial role others insist he must assume, and he absolutely rejects Shikanoko. The Spirit brothers prefer to use their powers mischievously but are now called to serve a higher power. Characters destined for each other fall in love with those outside the Divine plan. Only the one who truly loves Shikanoko can remove the hideous and magical antler mask he was forced to wear while hiding in the Darkwood. The ruler Aritomi is dying but believes he will surprise all with the immortality inherent in the sorcery he has learned over the years.  Fathers, mothers and sons reunite and must explain virtuous and nefarious past acts.

All in all, this medieval Japanese story, the reimagining of several classic Japanese literary tales, comes to an intriguing, riveting and action-packed finale sure to please fans of Asian literature and newcomers to the genre as well.  Nicely crafted, packed with surprises, memorable and highly recommended historical fiction by the skilled author, Lian Hearn.