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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

 

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
By Pamela S. Turner
Illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Charlesbridge
256 pages
Buy from IndieBound

The epic life of samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189) included many action movie tropes, such as exile, sword-play, arrows flying by the thousands, elaborate land and sea battles, kidnapping, and yes, tragic death. So it was tempting to turn this book 90 degrees and imagine how it would have looked in movie format.

As it is, Samurai Rising pairs Gareth Hinds’ pen-and-ink illustrations of Yoshitsune’s adventures with Pamela S. Turner’s narrative to create something feature-film-ish, more like a historical novel than a young adult nonfiction title. But it works very well in this format.

Because this book’s subject is from twelfth-century Japan, there is a lot about Yoshitsune’s life that history cannot tell us. But Turner doesn’t let that stop her. Though not much was known about Yoshitsune’s childhood, early in her narrative Turner makes it clear that “childhood dreams can change history,” which sets the tone for the rest of the book. “If transported into a modern high school, the Kyoto nobility would consider themselves the cool kids. They thought of the samurai as dumb jocks,” she writes, obviously with her target audience in mind. And again: “It was like a boy who had never played Little League showing up for spring training with the Yankees.”

The narrative of this 256-page book is only 163 pages, with the remainder filled with author’s notes, timelines, chapter notes, and a bibliography. This book is already getting a lot of awards buzz, and I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood created the film version of Yoshitsune’s action-packed story.

 

 

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