Book Review: Curse of Honor

Book Review: Curse of Honor

Curse of Honor is the first in a line of books set in the Legend of the Five Rings setting published by Aconyte Books. In short, it’s a fantastic story that manages to be both accessible for readers who know nothing about the setting as well as engaging for long time fans.

Curse of Honor goes on sale 2nd October!
Pre order links can be found here.

The story starts with a group of Crab bushi leading a caravan through the mountains home to Striking Dawn Castle. At this point, the story is written from the perspective of a Lieutenant Hida Haru who is leading the bushi. This setup does two things very nicely. It keeps things simple, as we only have a mountain road and a small group of people. It lets the reader get to know how people in this setting think through Haru’s reactions. Although new concepts and words used, they’re always done in context. For example, when Haru’s squad is described we’re given some of their names and descriptions of their armor along with the phrase ‘bushi in the squad’. A brand new reader might not know what a bushi is, but just through context alone they’ll realise that these armored warriors are bushi.

Similarly, as the story is initially told through the perspective of Haru, the writer gets to introduce the ideas of rank and obligation. Haru is in a difficult position where he has to decide between delaying the caravan and disappointing his superiors or risking bad weather and possible disaster! As he is the ranking officer, he’s unable to ask for advice and none of those of lower rank would risk insulting him by offering it.

We also get introduced to the idea of desire versus duty as Haru considers the future that has been laid out for him and the one he would actually like. This tension regularly features in the samurai genre and is a key element in the roleplaying game, so it’s great to see it appear so early in this book. This all happens very naturally without feeling forced, so a reader can enjoy getting to know Haru while gradually picking up these quirks of living in the world of Rokugan.

As the story progresses we get introduced to new characters and new perspectives that help round out the reader’s understanding. I was pleasantly surprised to see the book did contain diverse representation without any judgement. The few characters that the story focuses do feel like they’re more than one-dimensional, even when there isn’t enough space to fully explore them. Although there is some mention of the greater empire, it’s only mentioned in passing and there is no need for a reader to be familiar with decades worth of material. The focus is very much on the characters in the story, how they react to what happens, and how those actions have consequences.

As the story progresses towards its crescendo, we get introduced to some of the horrors of the Shadowlands. Even those without any experience in the background will work out from the cover that there’s something creepy going on and those familiar with the material might think they have an idea. Those familiar with the creatures of the Shadowlands might think they have an idea what to expect, but this book spooked me! Every time I thought the book had peaked, something even more terrifying happened. It kept me on the edge of my seat and did a great job of creeping me out. I felt the end wrapped things up nicely but at the same time, I’d love to know what happens next!

As we learned from the recent Court Games Interview, David is new to the L5R world. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the setting, and specifically on the Crab, but I thought he did a great job. By focusing the story on one castle, with a small group of just one clan, in an unspecified time of history, David is able to avoid distracting the reader with too much info. While there are a few aspects that could have been expanded, for example how magic in Rokugan is presented, I can easily put that down to keeping it simple for new readers.

I started reading this book just because it was a Legend of the Five Rings book and for no other reason, but I’m glad I did. Even if you leave all the L5R stuff to the side, it’s a great fantasy novel that anyone can enjoy. The addition of L5R is a nice twist that set’s this book apart from the typical western fantasy tropes and ultimately provides a gateway into the greater L5R setting. Speaking of which they also have 2 more books in the pipeline Poison River by Josh Reynolds about a Crane investigator in the City of the Rich Frog and The Night Parade of a Hundred Demons by Marie Brennan a supernatural thriller set on the border between Dragon and Phoenix lands.

This new series of books has great potential to grow the setting and expand its fan base. The team at Aconyte Books include staff previously from Black Library, and if Aconyte Books are able to the do the same thing for Legend of the Five Rings that Black Library did for Warhammer 40k, then we have a bright future ahead of us.

If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below. Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.

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