Blade’s Edge, by Virginia McClain, is an excellent fantasy novel that will keep readers turning the pages.
The Kisōshi are elite warriors with elemental powers. They have ruled and protected the people of Gensokai for over a thousand years. The belief that there are no female Kisōshi is widespread and unquestioned by most. What the people don’t know is that the Rōjū ruling council has gone to great lengths to perpetuate this myth.
Mishi and Taka knew from a young age they were different from other girls. They also knew to keep their powers a secret. When they are separated at a young age, both have to survive in a world where their powers are illegal. Both of them learn about the secret the Rōjū have been keeping and they decide that it’s not just about their own survival, but the survival of many.
It’s refreshing to have a story with two female protagonists who are intelligent, brave, strong, and don’t require a hunky male to rescue them at the last minute. Mishi and Taka are both capable and those who know about them, including men, respect and admire them as equals. This sends a positive message to readers of all ages. Women are just as capable and don’t need a knight in shining armor.
The story takes place in Gensokai and the author has borrowed aspects from feudal Japan and the samurai culture. However, this is not historical fiction. Blade’s Edge is pure fantasy, but the author lived in Japan while writing this novel and certain influences seeped into her story. Including aspects that are somewhat familiar to readers assists with the world building without having to try too hard. This ease is one of the reasons why this is such an enjoyable read.
The second reason is the solid writing. This is a plot driven novel, and the author has done a superb job building the tension right from the start. Mishi and Taka have special powers and if the wrong people find out the consequences would be severe, including death. As the story progresses, the fear heightens. Will the young women succeed in their mission? And will they survive? At points you may find yourself reading through the cracks of your fingers, not wanting to know what’s going to happen, but not able to stop yourself from continuing.
Given the buildup to the climax, it was somewhat surprising that the author decided to take the easy way out in the final pages. The ending is much too simple. Mishi and Taka want to take down a ruling class that has been in power for hundreds of years. The ending should be messy and it was to a certain degree, but it felt like the author held back some, which was disappointing since she pushed the envelope until that point.
All in all, this is an exciting and inspirational fantasy novel. This is the author’s debut novel and she is one to keep an eye on. It’s exciting to find a new talent and it will be interesting to see what she writes next.