Title: Enzan – The Far Mountain
Author: John Donohue
Published: July 7th 2014
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center
Genre: Fiction, Martial Arts
Source: NetGalley eARC
Book Blurb (Goodreads):
Chie Miyazaki is wild and spoiled the pampered child of a cadet line of the imperial House of Japan. When she disappears in the United States accompanied by a slick Korean boyfriend, it sets off alarm bells among people in Japan s security apparatus. The Japanese want the problem solved quietly. They seek out Connor Burke, prize student of the master martial arts sensei Yamashita. Burke suspects that he’s being used, but he accepts the assignment out of honor for his revered sensei. A covert search and rescue operation turns into a confrontation with a North Korean sleeper cell, and Burke finally discovers the secret that drove Yamshita from Japan so many years ago and the power behind the decades-old connections that pull Yamashita back into danger in the service of the imperial family.
I remember reading the premise of this book and thinking it would be a really different book from the usual procedural crime fiction that I read. Introducing martial arts into the mix had me really intrigued and I was keen to start it. So, while it took me far longer than I had expected to get through it, I still found it to be an enjoyable read.
Part of my reason for rating it as a midling read is due to the main character of Burke. I was not a fan. He’s an American who trained in the dojo looking for a path in his life that made sense. He’s educated in the traditions of Japanese people and this comes into conflict with his relationships with those around him – particularly his brother who happens to be a police officer.
While I found it difficult to connect with Burke, I rather enjoyed the diary entries that were dotted throughout. Seeing the history of Burke’s sensei through the eyes of the man’s friend was super intriguing and I found myself wishing that there had been more of that instead of Burke himself, which really shouldn’t have been how it was.
I found the pacing of the story to be off, too, which didn’t help when I was trying to immerse myself in it. I felt like it was too slow for the majority of the book and it only picked up the pace in the final few chapters where all hell breaks loose. While I know this is quite typical with some crime fiction, it just didn’t feel right here and I did end up putting the book down for long periods of time because of this.
With the popularity of shows like Iron Fist on Netflix – about a man who was trained to harness his chi into his fist to create a powerful weapon against a group of criminals known as the Hand – books like this would really connect with fans of the show, in my opinion. It links the world of traditional Japanese martial arts with the modern world of America in the same way the TV show does.
While this wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, I know that there will be plenty of people out there that will love this book. It’s one of those books that you will either love or feel a little indifferent about and sadly, I am of the latter this time around.
About the Author
John Donohue is a novelist and martial artist whose novels in the Burke Yamashita series, Sensei, Deshi, Tengu and the forthcoming (July 2011) Kage all explore the world of elite martial arts training and the implications of a life of action.
*Picture and Biography from Goodreads