I have always loved fairy tales. My mother read a lot of them to me as a child, and it is a type of story that I find comforting. Today I was looking for a short, comfort read and came across The Warlord and the Nightingale in my to-be-read pile. I have heard many good things about Jeannie Lin, and I have other of her books waiting to be read, but for some reason I never got around to reading any of them until I read this story today. You can be sure that I will be rectifying that oversight very shortly – this is a wonderful story.
The story involves Hanzo, a karakuri puppet maker working for a Japanese warlord, and the warlord’s courtesan, Lady Kura. (Karakuri are traditional Japanese mechanized puppets or automata that were used for entertainment. You can see many examples of them in action on YouTube.) One of the karakuri in this story is the Nightingale from the title, and that creature is how Hanzo and Lady Kura meet. This is such a short story, it is difficult to write much about the plot without giving too much away, but for both characters all is not what it appears to be, and their fates depend upon Hanzo’s karikuri creations, as well as Lady Kura’s skills.
I often find short stories or novellas to be disappointing because of the shortcuts taken in story telling. They may have big ambitions, but they usually leave me with a ho hum feeling of just being adequate. This story in no way suffers from those shortcomings. The characters are complex, and the plot is intriguing and entertaining. My only quibble is that there are a few too many typos: 4 or 5 in a story of this length is really not acceptable. I did, however, enjoy this story very much, and highly recommend it.
The Warlord and the Nightingale: A steampunk fairy tale in feudal Japan
by Jeannie Lin
The Gunpowder Chronicles