(Cover picture courtesy of Lyre Center for Literature for Young Readers.)
Yayoi March 7, 1858
As the maids spread out the kimonos, we welcomed back the colors…of spring, like old friends. For only now we may begin to wear them. But during the tea party I am feeling all the while that this talk of silks and colors and painted blossoms covers up something. It is what is not being said that is perhaps the most disturbing. I feelt hat these women know something I do not….There is a shrillness to Lady Tomaki’s laughter that seems not quite natural…..And there is absolutely no talk of the prince, my future husband. It is so obvious to me that I dare not ask about him.
Maybe it was the fact that I really have no interest in Japan or Japanese history in general or maybe it was the book itself, but I did not really enjoy Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t as good as some of the other books in The Royal Diaries.
Kazunomiya was a pretty bland character who just did not appeal to me. Although it is likely how the real woman behaved, for someone born in the year of the Fire Horse and supposedly was a fighter, she was not very proactive. Instead, we only really get to see a bit of her frustration (not anger) through her writing in her diary, not her actions. It just felt like Kathryn Lasky wanted to go for the firebrand female angle in the beginning, but just sort of gave up a quarter of the way through. As a character, Kazunomiya is not very consistent.
Although I know a bit about the modernization of Japan, it would have been nice for Kathryn Lasky just to give readers a little more background. Yes, Japan and the Imperial court were both incredibly isolated from the outside world, but surely there would have been some news that reached the ears of Kazunomiya. I can definitely see where things would get confusing for someone with no background in the Japan’s rapid industrialization.
Overall: meh. None of the characters really stuck out for me and I didn’t really learn as much as I would have liked. Still, it’s a great book to get girls aged 8-13 interested in history so it’s fine by me if other people like it. I’m not the target audience anymore, after all.
I give this book 3/5 stars.
*Available as a used book only.