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Literature / Cloud of Sparrows

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On January 1st, 1861, Okumichi no kami Genji, Great Lord of Akaoka, receives three visitors from America. Zephaniah Cromwell wants to spread the word of God, Emily Gibson is fleeing the attention of her countrymen, and Matthew Stark has come to Japan because of ten dead men.

Genji's life is the target of Manipulative Bastard Kawakami; his death will break the spirit of the shogun's opponent's, resulting in a united Japan which will be able to repel outsider influence. Unfortunately for him, the Okumichi clan's gift of prophecy and the influence of the Americans will destroy him and bring an end to the samurai.

Cloud of Sparrows is a 2002 novel by Takashi Matsuoka, who also wrote a sequel, Autumn Bridge, in 2004. Compare Shogun.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Heiko is actually a ninja, and kills some guards in a barricade with help from Stark. Hanako, despite being a maid, protects Emily and Hide, losing her arm in the process with a sword.
  • Anachronic Order: How all the backstories are revealed.
  • Attempted Rape: Emily seems to suffer this a lot.
  • Katana Ax-Crazy: Shigeru, until he snaps out of it, unfortunately far too late for his poor family.
  • Batman Gambit: Fully expecting to have traitors among his guards, Genji allows several guards to sit in a vital planning meeting in order to flush them out. Kudo reveals himself as a traitor to Shigeru in the process.
  • Beautiful Sexual Assault Victim: Emily's reason for fleeing America for Japan hinges on this. She was raped by her stepfather and her neighbors' sons at 13, and she was ultimately blamed for it, since everyone assumes because of her beauty that she seduced them. She finds that she's rather ugly by Japanese beauty standards, and as a result desperately tries to stay there rather than return to America.
  • Break the Haughty: Hanako, when she came to Cloud of Sparrows, was a total bitch. She mellows out after a conversation with Genji's grandfather.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: All the characters are a product of their respective times and cultures, which means even Hero Genji will massacre an entire village, including the family of the woman he loves, in order to keep the secret of her birth, because it would cause him scandal. Shigeru will also kill every single member of traitor Kudo's family, including an infant less than one year old.
  • Dual Wielding: Shigeru is the only person in the book strong and skilled enough to pull this off, and is well known for it.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Genji has a prophecy of his death, being assassinated at the Diet, as well seeing his daughter, a half-Japanese woman named Shizuka, who wears Emily's fleur-de-lis necklace, implying she is her mother
  • Driven to Suicide: Heiko, when the truth is discovered, plans a suicide. She is talked out of it.
  • Friendly Enemy: A Gonk-ish feudal lord with a crush on Genji, who doesn't notice it. After he dies bringing reinforcements to a battle with Genji, Genji displays mercy and allows all of his vassals to enter his service instead of being killed.
  • Mighty Whitey: Stark, who is shown to be nigh unstoppable in katana quick-draw duels after only 10 minutes of instruction. It is explained by the fact that he is the Fastest Gun in the West, and his skills carried over well.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Stark's heart "is a dead man's heart", but he has a score to settle...
  • Ninja: Both realistic and pop-culture style.
  • Pair the Spares: Going back to America, Stark and Heiko.
  • Pretty Boy: Genji, describes as 'too pretty for a man'
  • Punny Name: Jimbo. It's a contraction of James Bohnannon, the guy's name, but is also reminiscent of jimbozu, a Japanese word for a Buddhist monk.
  • Rule of Three: Genji will only have three prophecies over the course of his life. The first is that he will become fluent in English. Two, that an outsider will save his life. Third, he is assassinated at the Diet. The first two come true, the third doesn't occur by the end of the book.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hide is seen to be an idiot. With encouragement from Genji (including an arranged marriage to Hanako), he becomes stronger and more capable. Others notice this change.
  • The Wild West
  • World of Badass: The only non-badasses in the whole book are Zachariah and Emily. The former dies very quickly.