‘Once, a long time ago, I made a vow,’ Shika said. ‘That I would find Yoshimori and restore him to the throne. But then the mask became fused to my face and I felt I was condemned to live out my life outside human society, like an animal in the forest.’
This is the fourth book in the ‘Tale of Shikanoko’ series, and I started to read it with mixed feelings. On one hand, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. On the other hand, I really didn’t want the series to end. The four books in this series really need to be read in order.
At the beginning of the series, the hidden emperor, Yoshi was a small child when he was forced to flee for his life with the Autumn Princess when his uncle Daigen was named emperor. Yoshi has grown now, but would prefer not to acknowledge his heritage. He lives with the Riverbank people, as an acrobat. Lord Aritomo, the power behind the false emperor Daigen, receives reports that Yoshi has been sighted for the first time in twelve years. Aritomo wants to capture and execute Yoshi, to disprove that he is the true emperor.
Shika has been living in the Darkwood for years. Unable to remove his magically empowered deer mask, he has exiled himself. Hina is searching for him: perhaps she can help him remove the mask? Will Shika’s return from exile make a difference: can he prevail over Aritomo, and can he convince Yoshi to take up his role as the true emperor?
The battle between good and evil continues. Supernatural abilities are part of the mix in determining who will prevail. Has Shika learned enough, can he use what he has learned? Can there be a ‘happily ever after’ ending?
I loved this series, and will be rereading it again soon. I know that, in my rush to find out how it would all end, I’ve rushed over passages. And, even though I found the ending (mostly) satisfactory, I wanted more. Some of these characters have their own life outside the pages of the series. I’ve already bought my own copy of the series.
Note: My thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel for review purposes.