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Book Review – Sairo’s Claw by Virginia McClain

By Virginia McClain

Book Cover

Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.

In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions. As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept.

Sairo’s Claw is a fascinating read, based on Japanese culture with a tonne of unique worldbuilding woven in. Virginia provides a glossary (in case you need it), but I loved the way the vocabulary fell naturally within the story, never feeling forced but rather a method of engrossing you within the world. And what a rich world it is; beautiful detail on the landscape, creatures, food and clothing, always reassuring the reader you’ve joined a story where the author really knows and cares about the world they’ve created.

The book follows various characters (Roku, Kaiyo, Torako, etc.), switching between their POVs as necessary. Each character has their own clear voice and different ways of viewing the circumstances they find themselves in. Not all of them are likeable all of the time, but this made them more real and relatable for me. Despite their numerous skills and special abilities, they’re flawed and wonderfully believable, making it impossible to decide who you’re rooting for when they’re pitted against each other.

Another big plus for this book is how representative and diverse it is, displaying lesbian relationships and using gender neutral pronouns seemlessly. Virginia never makes a big deal of these issues, rather incoporates them into the story in a way I’d like to see reflected in our own society. That’s not to say Virginia McClain has created the perfect society: Gensokai still has its fair share of problems, secrecy and isolationism not the least of them.

There’s a lot going on in Sairo’s Claw and quite a few mysteries to unravel, keeping the reader as interested in the plot as the characters themselves. While there are some big revelations, there’s plenty more that goes unsaid, leaving room for thought and future books (I hope).

Although this is Book 3 in the Chronicles of Gensokai, it works as a standalone; however, there is overlap between this and the previous books. You don’t need to have read the others to enjoy it (which I’m confident you will), but read them anyway.

If you fancy a copy, click your reading choice link below.

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