SPFBO Finalist Review: Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain

24547634In the home stretch now!

Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.

When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves–Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer–as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery.

The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.

“You know, for a tiny human you have trouble demonstrating the proper respect.” Tatsu eyed her, and if she hadn’t known him better, the face he made would have made her quite nervous indeed. Still, if he was planning what she thought he was, she had good reason to be suspicious.

“And for a giant dragon who could eat me in one bite, you are awfully hesitant to answer a simple question.”

This is the story of Mishi and Taka, who are orphaned girls and best friends who are suddenly separated from each other when they are unexpectedly taken from their orphanage. Mishi goes to a school for Kisōshi (this means more or less samurai, with magical powers), while Taka goes to another place where women who show kiso, the magical power, are trained to be midwives.

Women Kisōshi are banned in this world by order of the Rōjū council. In fact, women who show any sort of kiso at birth are killed, which Taka finds out the hard way in her midwife training. She eventually escapes and finds herself being trained in healing by a forest spirit. Mishi continues training in secret while pretending to be a servant by day and is finally given an important mission, and from there, the shenanigans really start.

This was a quick and easy read. It was well written and it flowed well, and was very well edited. The typography that’s used for different parts and at the beginning of each chapter really gives this book an extra something. It uses Japanese words and honorifics at times, which are used well and I didn’t find confusing at all, but some might stumble over these.

I liked Mishi and Taka, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally enamored with either of them. So it goes sometimes, I guess. I liked Tatsu and Yanagi, who are both Kami (gods). Tatsu, who is a dragon, watches over Mishi, whose element is fire. Yanagi, a forest-spirit, teaches Taka how to heal using the plants of the forest, as well as with her magic. I wish that Tatsu and Yanagi’s stories were a little more in depth, because I found them interesting.

The biggest problem that I had with this one is that the timeline tends to skip ahead a lot. Granted, it does cover about 8 years in about 300 pages, but at times I found this really annoying, because something would happen, and then something else would happen like a year later. Occasionally events that had happened ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak, meaning ‘in these gaps of time’ would be referenced and I wished I could have read about them happening because they sounded like they’d have been more exciting than some of the events that were going on.

I also rolled my eyes when there was a well placed boy for each of the girls to fall for (grudgingly, because they are both disliked at first). There admittedly was a twist with one that caught me by surprise, but also annoyed me because it looks as though it’s setting up a love triangle for future books. I’m going to go ahead and hard pass on that. Honestly, I feel like Mishi and Taka are the best possible relationship here anyway, but maybe that’s just me. 😀

All told, I liked Blade’s Edge but I didn’t love it. I think that some people will definitely enjoy their time with it though, and it’s worth a read if you like YA with strong female characters, or samurai with magic. 6.5/10 stars.

Finalist Score:

Kristen: 6.5
Esme: 7.4

Average: 6.95

SPFBO Final Score: 7/10


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