Title: The Heart of the Ronin
Author: Travis Heerman
Read by: Danielle Steen
Genre: Japanese Historical Fantasy
Released: 12 December 2008 – 28 May 2009
Located: Author’s Site, iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook and dead tree
Rating: R for violence and mature situations. And one bumper’s language.
I’ve always been fascinated with Asian culture and Asian martial arts. I’ve studied several and have respect for all of martial arts. Last week as I was perusing Podiobooks.com varied categories, I decided to give “Historical Fantasy” a shot. Weather Child, one of my very favorite stories, is categorized as such, so I thought it might lead me to another. Boy did it. Kind of.
So, on to the review.
Thirteenth-century Japan is a dangerous place, even in a time of peace. Capricious gods, shape-changing animals, and bloodthirsty demons are as real and unpleasant as a gang of vicious bandits. From the wilderness emerges a young, idealistic warrior with his father’s mysterious sword on his hip, a wise, sarcastic dog at his side, and a yearning in his heart to find a worthy master. He dreams only of being samurai. Little does he suspect the agony and glory that await him when his dreams come true.
Finding a master should be easy for a warrior as skilled as Ken’ishi, but the generations-long wars for the Imperial throne have ended. The land has settled into an uneasy peace and cast multitudes of proud, powerful warriors to the four winds. The new peace means that these masterless warriors, ronin, often must stoop to crime and banditry to feed themselves. Ken’ishi finds himself plagued by the hatred and mistrust of peasants and samurai alike.
When he saves a noble maiden from a pack of bandits, he and his faithful dog become enmeshed in the intrigues of samurai lords, vengeful constables, Mongol spies, and a shadowy underworld crime boss known as Green Tiger. But Ken’ishi has a few secret weapons of his own, granted to him by his mysterious past and his magical upbringing. If only he knew more about his mysterious past, his parents’ murder, and the sword that seems to want to talk to him. . . .(Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: The author, Mr. Heermann, is also in charge of the production and he does an entirely adequate job. I can’t say I remember a single instant of repeated lines or other obvious errors. The music used for the intro and outro is completely appropriate. There are occasional artifacts heard in the background, but nothing consistent or obvious. If I had any issue with the production at all, it would be the use of teasers preceding the episode. Normally, I wouldn’t mention this, but the promos seemed so incongruous to the content of Mr. Heerman’s that it seemed to grate a bit more. Also, one teaser could have never been played in a podcast that wasn’t all ready rated R, which to my way of thinking is a strange thing to do in a teaser.
Cast: The cast is mostly a single read, with that duty falling to Danielle Steen. Ms. Steen does more than an adequate job with many Japanese words. The only other voice we here during the story is Zeus Legion, as an oni (Japanese demon). As always, Mr. Legion’s voice is perfect.
Story: This is another large story, with Heart of the Ronin comprising the first third. Mr. Heermann’s story is a trilogy. It is adequately written, though a good editor could make it better. There is a bit of repetitive word usage. Most importantly to me however, is if you’re going to write a historical fiction novel, you should be able to catch the feeling of the time period with your story. Heart of the Ronin does this and more. It is obvious that Mr. Heermann has either done his research well or has a history with Japanese culture.
Verdict: I loved Heart of the Ronin. That was until the final episode. When I discovered it was a trilogy. Maybe I missed that somewhere along the way. I don’t know. But, regardless, it is a very good beginning. Though a complete book/podcast, this is far from a complete story. I was a bit concerned when I realized this was Book One because it has been marked complete since 2009. It has been more than three years now. I hazarded a check at Podiobooks where someone else voiced a similar complaint. Mr. Heermann did comment saying he was working on it, and that he expected to have a draft complete by end of summer. Be warned, if you listen, which I can’t help but recommend, you will be irritated with each day that passes until book two becomes available.
Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)
Disclosure: Until listening to this podcast, I’d never heard of Mr. Heerman or Ms. Steen. I follow neither and have had no contact with them.