Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Hachisuka Narihiro is the nephew to the shogun and the squad leader of the Tokugawa Chrysanthemum, a group of men who run machines known as musha. He is also one of the few men who speaks not only his countries native language, but also English and Dutch. Perfect to help when it comes to gaining information from the impending Americans.
With the Americans comes as Pennsylvania Dutch man named Maarten Zook. Unlike the other Americans, he is courteous to cultural traditions and has a certain allure that Hiro just can’t seem to turn away. But it’s a volatile time in the country, and with tension between the Americans and Nippon, getting close to an American is dangerous.
He had fallen in love with Maarten, but Kiyoshi was right, it was a love as unreal and pure as the northern snow. They had treated one another as if they were made out of glass. It could have grown to the love men had for one another, aware, very aware of the lust and life that such a relationship would have.
This story mixes aspects of steampunk with alternative history. Being a fan of such things myself, I was excited to give it a try, and unfortunately it missed a few notes for me.
To be perfectly clear, the story is well written and I think the author had the start of some very good world building, but as is the case in many short stories, it was just not the right length to provide the story that the author was giving. Most of the story concerned the details of life in Nippon, as well as political problems that were occurring between two countries. The relationship was truly secondary, and oddly enough, it felt a bit out of place to me in the entire thing. I felt like I was reading about the problems between America and Nippon, not reading a romance between two men. There’s steam at the end, but beyond that, it’s really not what I would consider a romance.
In the end, it just wasn’t right for me, but it may be for someone else.
The cover art by Anne Cain is fitting for the story. There are elements of mechanical parts, a figure that is likely a musha, and of course two men. I do think that it could’ve used some more care when it comes to blending, but as far as fitting the story goes, it works.
ebook, 90 pages
Published January 14th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC