Monday, 14 June 2010

Fudoki by Kij Johnson: Review

The title of this book caught my eye and I instantly wanted to know what's a Fudoki and the cover stumped me. It's a woman in a warrior's armour and half of her face is that of a cat's. Interesting!
So I decided to borrow it from one of my local libes.

From Goodreads:

   Fudoki is the tale of a being who starts her journey on the kami, or spirit road, as a humble - if ever a being such as a cat can be humble - small tortoiseshell feline. She has seen her family destroyed by a fire that decimated most of the imperial city. This loss renders her taleless, the only one left alive to pass on such stories as the Cat Born the Year the Star Fell, the Cat with a Litter of Ten, the Fire-Tailed Cat.
  Without her fudoki - self and soul and home and shrine - she cannot keep the power of her clan together. And she cannot join another fudoki because, although she might be able to win a place within another clan, to do so would mean that she would cease to be herself.
   So a small cat begins an extraordinary journey. Along the way she will attract the attention of old and ancient powers, including gods who are curious about this creature newly come to Japan's shores, and who choose to give the tortoiseshell a human shape.
And who set her on a new kamiroad, where Kagaya-hime will have to choose a way to find what happiness she can.

When I first started reading it I was instantly drawn in and then a couple chapters later I was unsure. It's prose is soft, subtle yet strong and this made it difficult to read during the day when I'm at my most active. I had to read it at night, snuggled up on my way to sleep. Such is the tranquillity the book generates. 

I loved the idea of a story within a story which added another dimension and new characters. Talk about a bargain- two books in one! It's set in 'medieval' Japan. Johnson's writing style is crisp, clear and vivid; allowing the reader to see, feel and experience both worlds in her book.
Her subtle style allows for both stories in the book to intertwine and mingle seamlessly. The stories are that of Princess Harueme is is old and dying. She decides to fill up the empty notebooks left in her room before making her way to the convent and Kagaya-hime a cat who has lost everything and is turned into a human.

It's sounds complexed but Johnson's writing style never lets the reader find themselves confused. For me it's a brilliant read and I'll be reading it again; because I think it'll be even better the second time 'round.

Each character is solid and well developed which leaves you wanting to know/experience more, never minding the switch from one to the other. To be honest the only negative is that it can get a bit slow at times but that's natural with most ebb and flow. Plus there was more flow than ebb anyway.

Verdict: Love, love, lurve! This book is not meant to be read but experienced. So it gets the full lippy service from me. This is a book I borrowed from the library but I will be buying it as well as The Fox Woman and I'll surely read it again and again. I'd recommend this book to anyone who lurves fantasy, magic and worlds within worlds.

Kij Johnson
Release Date: Oct 2004
Publisher: Thor Books
320 pages, Paperback
I borrowed this book from the library and plan on buying it.
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