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Well, this month is NOT going to be a review about an anime. It sorta has some aspects to it, but not really, you know?This month's review is a book series called The Legend of the Five Rings based off of a card RPG and is created from a mixture of legends in China, Japan, and Korea. I've never actually played the game before, but I thought that the books were cool, which is why I'm sharing this knowledge to you all without giving too much information away^^. Oh yes, lengthy review this time.

The Legend of the Five Rings is a seven book series, each with the name of a different clan. They are all related somehow, but they're all in the perspective of a person in the particular clan title of the book. There are seven major clans: Scorpion, Crane, Dragon, Phoenix, Lion, Unicorn, and the Crab. Each clan has a skill in which they are best in and all are against one another yet one in the Imperial Court when the emperor summons them.

There is a legend that Seven Thunders, each the first ancestor of the seven major clans, sealed away the dark god Fu Leng at the cost of their own lives. That legend is about to be proven with the reincarnations of these thunders and all combine their strength and skills will follow under the leadership of a fallen lion whose destiny is to defeat the dark god once again...

 

The book starts off with the Scorpion Clan, the only clan that is highly distrusted by all the others because they are capable of knowing all and seeing all. They are mainly recognized by their masks, hiding their faces and expressions from those around them. The daimyo of the Scorpions is Bayushi Shoju, a man who hides behind a full mask to hide his deformities but is a man that has no equal in strength and cunning. Every person in the Emerald Empire knows him as the "Master of Secrets" and not that many people know his sword technique. He receives a dream, or rather a nightmare vision of days to come. It is the return of Fu Leng, the Dark Lord of the South, who will come and destroy the Emerald Empire when the last of the Hantei line stands for emperor. Shoju wants to prevent this at all costs even if it means that he must kill the current Hantei emperor and the heir. His trusted wife, Bayushi Kachiko, tries to aid him along the way. She is considered the most beautiful woman in the entire empire and also the most dangerous Scorpion. She plays a significant role in the entire series because things are about to change...

The second book follows two years after the Scorpion, two years after the disgrace of the Scorpion clan. The Plague has spread across the empire and undead, unclean, creatures begin to escape the wall that divides them and the entire Empire. We go now to the Unicorn Clan, a clan that the others classify as foreigners because they have only returned to the empire two hundred years before. The Unicorns like to help others, particularly their own people like peasants and such. They're also well known for their horse breeding. Their horses are the largest out of the empire, while the other clans have small ponies. Anyhoo, the woman in narration is Utaku Tetsuko, a young samurai-ko who is trying to redeem herself as a warrior after she left the Battle Maiden school and gave birth to a still born. Tetsuko is shy yet she doesn't like to be picked on especially when it comes from people who she has been taught to hate. Her past is one of tragedy (it's all about the tragic characters!) and she is trying to prove herself to the other Battle Maidens that she is worthy of a warrior. Tetsuko begins to discover the outbreaks of the plague and joins in the battle against the Crab army (who have left their thousand year duty of guarding the wall that separates them and the Shadowlands) and the undead army of Fu Leng.

The third book is about the Crane Clan. The Crane are graceful, beautiful people who are masters of perfection and are masters of the fast-sword draw technique, iajutsu (battoujutsu). The daimyo of this clan is the youngest out of all the daimyos: Doji Hoturi. He's was a playboy (and still is actually) when he was younger and is found out to be Kachiko's old lover back when they were teenagers and this relationship plays a major factor in this book. See, Hoturi still loves Kachiko very much and only married to please his rather abusive father. However, a lot of things about Kachiko and Hoturi's backgrounds collided with society and so it was kept secret until their relationship ended a year after Kachiko was married to Shoju. Hoturi finds out the real truth of the dead Scorpion heir and also falls into Kachiko's web of vengeance for her dead son. A LOT of strange things happen in this book, and that's not even the STRANGEST yet. Dopplegangers, evil spells, vengeance, fear, and the plague all begin to make some sort of sense....

The fourth book is the Phoenix Clan, led under the narration of Isawa Tadaka, one of the five masters of elements. As you can tell already from the previous sentence, the Phoenix are shugenja or wielders of magic. They are pacifist at heart, studying ancient scrolls and trying to decipher the legend of the Seven Thunders and how they had sealed Fu Leng in his domain. Not all Phoenix are pacifists, though. Some, such as the Phoenix Champion Shiba Ujimitsu and Phoenix general Shiba Tsukune, want to be involved in the other clans' struggles and Ujimitsu usually helps people out who are being attacked by the undead. The five masters of elements (Mistress of Wind ~ Isawa Uona, Master of Fire ~ Isawa Tsuke, Master of Water ~ Isawa Tomo, Mistress of the Void ~ Isawa Kaede, and of course Tadaka, the Master of the Earth) gather at their headquarters to see what can be done to help the Emerald empire and to destroy Fu Leng. Their answers lie in the forbidden Black Scrolls....

The fifth book is the Crab Clan, the clan whose duty lies in guarding the Carpenter's Wall, the wall that separates the dark world of Fu Leng and the Emerald Empire. It starts back during the time at the end of the Scorpion book and then continues onto the present. The Crab are very brash and sometimes arrogant in their personalities. They aren't formal whatsoever towards other clan members for they have their minds always set on defeating the ogres and other vile creatures that try to climb over the wall. They are also a bit thickheaded and during a lot of times in this book, you'll scream out "YOU IDIOT!!" a lot. Why? Because of the actions that they choose and later to regret. The Great Bear, Hida Kisada, decides to join forces with the army of the Shadowlands to overthrow the currently weak Hantei heir. His two sons, Yakamo and Sukune, are both on opposite sides of the decision. You also get to see a glimpse of Yakamo's "rival", Mirumoto Hitomi who is also the only female daimyo of all the other clans, and what had truly happened to the young Hantei emperor as well as more depth into the legend of the Seven Thunders.

The sixth book is the Dragon Clan, a clan isolated away from the wars and led by their mysterious Champion Togashi Yokuni. The book starts off at the end and then fades back into the beginning with the passing of powers between Mirumoto daimyo, Mirumoto Hitomi and Yokuni. There's a bit of a twist at the end, but after reading the entire book and then looking back at the beginning again, the way the author had written the Dragon really makes sense ^^. Anyway, you get to see the life of Hitomi, from the time of her brother's death all the way towards the final confrontation against Fu Leng. There is also an even greater tie between the legend of the Seven Thunders and you find out that each of the characters mentioned in the previous books are the seven thunders as well. You're not really sure who's who just yet, but you get an idea of who they are such as the "Scorpion woman" and the "Crane and Lion standing together". Hitomi is also one of the seven thunders as well as the man that she hates the most: Hida Yakamo. She first starts off as a brash, immature young woman whom her own soldiers disrespect until a certain key turn of events change her attitude completely. She fights against death and essentially grows up, along with her younger brother. Her brother (I forget his name at the moment) has made allies with serpent-like creatures who become a great beneficiary for the Dragon Clan as the two overthrow their corrupt cousin who becomes one of Fu Leng's pawns.

The seventh and final book revolves around the Lion Clan. It has split into two factions - the Black Lion led by the former Akodo Toturi (oh yeah, forgot to mention that Toturi is mentioned throughout the previous six books) who is redeeming himself from being a rurouni and "disgracing" the Akodo name and the other Lion Clan led by Matsu Tsuko who was Toturi's older brother's fiancee. A simple little game is played against the Lion Clan, making them doubt their loyalty to the emperor Hantei or the Empire. It splits the Lion Clan into two: those who serve for the Empire and those who serve for the emperor. Toturi struggles to unite the clan back together again as all the other clans begin to unite to go against Fu Leng who stands resting upon the Emerald Throne (put two and two together and you'll figure out what happened to the original Hantei emperor). As the final battle against Fu Leng commences, you get to see the identities of the Seven Thunders as they are gathered by the man known as the Nameless Ronin. What happens at the end of the Lion is up to you to read ^^.

What do I think about this book series? It is totally awesome, I have to tell you that. I have never played the card games before, so I'm not sure how you can compare it to the game. There is also another book series that follows the seven clans called The Four Winds Saga which I've heard to be set after Toturi is long gone and new characters emerge.

If I were to be any member of any Clan, I would first have to chose to be a Scorpion cuz they just are soo cool. Then I would choose to be a Crane because I'd like to be taught iajutsu as well ^^. Anyhoo, that's the end of this rather lengthy ramble.