Rating: 3 stars out of 5
In 1708 Japan, Hirata, a samurai serving Lord Takarada, is enjoying his elevated status in the daimyo’s army when he finds a gift, a wooden carving of a samurai on a horse. Hirata realizes he has a secret admirer, and soon discovers Matsuda, a young archer in Takarada’s retinue, has taken a liking to him.
But Hirata isn’t ready for a relationship with a man and refuses Matsuda. When he realizes he really does love Matsuda, the archer is far away with Lord Takarada in Edo Castle, and Hirata doesn’t know when they will return.
Hirata decides to convince Matsuda he is ready, but before he can put it into action, an earthquake and a tsunami destroy the daimyo’s manor.
Is Matsuda still alive? Is it too late for love to bloom between the two men?
The Wooden Samurai by Alex Morgan sets out a huge tale for itself and its far too big for its 45 pages to accomplish. That’s a sad thing because I loved the premise and this sort of story is just the thing that always hooks me in. I love stories of feudal Japan and samurai, especially if they get their history correct and can make their settings come alive as Alex Morgan did. Lord Takarada’s manor is a living, breathing small village unto itself…full of life, swarming with people, structures we get to see through the eyes of Hirata, the samurai who serves him.
While the setting, the history and the events that occur are dramatic and more than enough to connect any reader to the story, the relationship between Hirata and Matsuda isn’t. It just has too many flaws, due in part to the short nature of the tale. Enlarged, I think The Wooden Samurai could be an entirely different novel but at 45 pages there’s just not enough time for the switch from Hirata not having any leanings towards sexual feelings towards not only men but Matsuda himself to love just isn’t plausible, no matter the circumstances. Morgan just doesn’t make the case here with enough passion or enough interaction between the men to make me believe it. Again, the author has so much going on, that had everything been explored in more depth, whether it was the events occurring (no spoilers here but how I wanted more) to seeing Matsuda and Hirada converse, be, whatever, with each other enough to have a chemistry that I felt was lacking here.
So, The Wooden Samurai earned it’s 3 stars not on it’s romance but on everything else which was so well done. Alex Morgan can write, I think the author just got really ambitious here for a short story. I’d love to see an expanded version sometime down the line. I will certainly be looking forward to Morgan’s other stories, longer ones, in the future.
Cover art has nice touches. But I wish that the wooden samurai carving that plays such a large part in the story could have been featured on the cover instead of the overused naked torso.
Kindle Edition, 45 pages
Published June 24th 2017 by JMS Books LLC