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The Shogun's Queen by Lesley Downer

The Shogun's Queen: The Shogun Quartet, Book 1 - Lesley Downer

Only one woman can save her world from barbarian invasion but to do so will mean sacrificing everything she holds dear - love, loyalty and maybe life itself . . .

Japan, and the year is 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma Clan, in Japan's deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has - like all the clan's women - been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd, and to ride a horse.

But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence. And turns Okatsu’s world upside down.

Chosen by her feudal lord, she has been given a very special role to play. Given a new name - Princess Atsu - and a new destiny, she is the only one who can save the realm. Her journey takes her to Edo Castle, a place so secret that it cannot be marked on any map. There, sequestered in the Women’s Palace - home to three thousand women, and where only one man may enter: the shogun - she seems doomed to live out her days. But beneath the palace's immaculate facade, there are whispers of murders and ghosts. It is here that Atsu must complete her mission and discover one last secret - the secret of the man whose fate is irrevocably linked to hers: the shogun himself . . .


The Shogun's Queen is such a fantastic book. My knowledge before this book about Japan during 19-century was very limited and I enjoyed both getting a fictional version as well getting a history lesson all in one book. It's actually a very tragic book, the end of the Shogun's regime in Japan that we get to see through the eyes of Okatsu, a girl that was chosen to try to stop the barbarians from taking over the realm either by forcing or by bullying the leaders into giving in. Reading how the Americans and the British, etc. practically set an ultimatum to the leaders to open the borders so they could get into the land made my blood boil. The audacity to think that they had that kind of right is infuriating.

Okatsu, later Princess Atsu, life is fascinating to read about, and through the book did I really hope that she would achieve her goal, and save the realm, but she faces a lot of obstacles in the Women's Palace. To get the Shogun to listen is hard, especially since he is controlled by his mother. And, the Shogun mother is not a woman that will see reason, all she wants is to control her son and what happens outside the walls of the Women's Palace is second that. It would perhaps be easier if the Shogun had been more of leader, but this is a man that should never have ruled. He may have been born to be the Shogun, but he had not the mental capacity for that. Which his mother took advantage of.

The Shogun's Queen is an engrossing book, well-researched and it left me with a need for reading more about Japan and the Shogun's. I loved that it's through Princess Atsu that we get an insight into the chaotic time period. She may be trapped in the Women's Palace, but it's there that so much happens, and it's there that the faith of Japan will be decided...


I want to thank the author for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!