Title: Samurai Tales
Written By: Romulus Hillsborough
Cover Price: $11.87(US)
This book contains some of the stories that were occurring in Japan at the tumultuous time of the end of the Samurai. There are many tales that intertwine, and you start to get an idea of the political situations that were going on in the major centers of government, and how they played out through the lives of the individuals presented here. It's an interesting read full of swordsmanship, honor, beheadings, and colorful characters.
I've been a reader on Japan and the samurai since I started martial arts about 20 years ago, and although I knew some of the names involved, I hadn't heard any of these specific stories that were told in this book. I consider that a plus. My friend Rick (from the Martial Thoughts Podcast) is much more knowledgeable about the Shinsengumi than I am, and he hadn't heard all of these specific stories. So I gather that these are newer tales to English language books. They might be more known in Japan, but I have no way of guessing that.
I also enjoyed how the book played off itself. They would tell one story of a politically motivated duel/beheading, and then describe another samurai who was on the other side politically, and talk about their revenge killings. Overall you get a pretty good feel for the types of politics that were going on at the time.
My only complaint, is that the book is not a history book. It kinda starts with the impression that you have a basic idea of the political landscape of Japan at the end of the Edo period. Which, if you have even a basic idea (no thanks to Tom Cruise's Last Samurai) you can really place these stories in their proper perspective. That would be my only negative opinion of the stories.
I'm going to give this book 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars. I enjoyed the book and was pleasantly surprised by the new stories that I hadn't encountered but I do think you should have a basic understanding of the framework of when these stories were taking place.
I especially liked the tales involving the Shogun's Executioner. But, maybe that's because I watch too many Samurai Films (Where was the baby cart?).