The Tengu’s Game of Go concludes The Tale of Shikanoko on an appropriately bittersweet note, ending the inner and outer conflicts that have been raging since the tale’s beginning. Many, but not all, of the questions raised are answered, and the story brings itself back to the game of Go at the very beginning of Emperor of the Eight Islands. The deep sadness of Lord of the Dark Wood is over, but healing is slow.
Some of this activity takes place because Lian Hearn brings yet more characters onto the board. The Spider Clan has grown up. Shikanoko has a human son. Yoshimo is an adult. These younger characters, although still affected by past events are less burdened by them and start to make their own decisions and take action on their own. The Spider Clan, Shikanoko’s cast-off, not human “sons” become a significant factor in events. The new characters make it clear just how long this conflict has been going on, and the travels span more territory, showing the kingdom as a whole.
Hearn’s handling of the mythic elements continue to be a pleasure. They mesh with the every day world in a way few fantasies show. Some items are enchanted, some are not, and that is simply the way the world is. Some of the enchantments are troublesome since they act whether or not it is convenient. Anyone might run into a ghost. And the Tengu, who finally become major characters, are very much a part of the world.
Readers who enjoyed the first three books in The Tale of Shikanoko will want to grab this conclusion. As it is the fourth book, new readers are advised to look for The Emperor of the Eight Islands and start there.
TThe Tengu’s Game of Go comes out September 27 from FSG books. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title. You may also find it in your local bookstore or library.