Samurai Lord Inaba is murdered in his sleep while under the protection of the Shogun. Judge Ooka and his adoptive son, Seikei, attempt to investigate with a bloodstained origami butterfly as their sole clue. Judge Ooka enlists the aid of a "retired" ninja, Tatsuno, to accompany Seikei as he travels across Japan searching for the maker of the origami butterfly.
Their travels lead Seikei and Tatsuno to meet impoverished farmers, wary monks, and powerful daimyos. While Tatsuno attempts to warn Seikei to rein in his idealistic fervor, Seikei's code of honor win Tatsuno's respect. In the end, Seikei must flee from false imprisonment and face a dangerous and powerful ninja to find the truth behind the assassination.
In Darkness, Death introduces another interesting character in the series. Tatsuno, the "retired" ninja is cynical and resists having to accompany the young Seikei. Though Tatsuno could have abandoned Seikei numerous times, we find that Tatsuno follows a strict code of honor of his own. I enjoyed learning about Tatsuno and the lives of ninjas during the 1700s, their relationship to the monks and to the local farmers.
This adventure shared the wonderful balance of action and insight into Seikei's personality. His slow realization of the plight of the farmers, the power of the daiymo and the role of the Shogun and his officials was sad but very interesting. The dilemmas that he faced added further depth to fourteen year old Seikei's character.
Publisher: Philomel Books (193 pages), 2000.
Courtesy of the New York Public Library.
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