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Reviewed by Anelynde Smit for Readers' Favorite
The Oni’s Shamisen: Book 9 by Claire Youmans is an ornate oriental journey into a magical fantasy world. Our characters are Azuki, Akira Shota, and many more that we’ve come to know in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy series. There are many stories in one book. In one, they are trying to help the refugees from the Satsuma Rebellion settle in and begin making a life for themselves. This is achieved by going to the International Industrial Exposition and seeing the latest in looms and weaving machines so that the refugees have a trade and can support themselves. Then we have the story of Anko and the birth of her twins. The birth is complicated by the midwife and almost comes to a tragic end but friends would not let that happen. Through dragon magic, they move the mother from one place to another and fool people into thinking that the babies were born somewhere else, with an exciting story twist. Dragons, both Western and European, play a huge role in this story. Not only can they do the most remarkable things but they are wise and even get into mischief and hijinks. Then we have the story of the Oni. Much like a demon, they only protect certain places and things. In this case, the Oni borrowed a Shamisen from a blind child and then proceeded to break it with its large fingers. The small team of kids plays a role in trying to fix it and how they grow in the process.
The Oni’s Shamisen by Claire Youmans is a beautiful story indeed. With so many twists and turns and the existence of dragons, it was easy to fall in love. I loved how there were old Japanese illustrations in between to give you a little look into Meiji-era Japan. I also adored the use of Japanese words instead of using the English equivalent of words for things like the Shamisen, which could easily be called a Japanese guitar. I loved the detailed descriptions of the Lake of Jewels and the world these characters live in. I especially adored the shapeshifting kids, who are wise beyond their years but still cling to their youth with so much exuberance. I can see why this is a popular series and how much more adventure they would be able to embark on. This series can go places and I would love to see an animated version. I think both kids and adults would love it. I highly recommend this story to lovers of fantasy.