Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sisters of the Sword and the occasional hazards of reading "historical fiction" for kids

I've been on a historical fiction/multicultural kick lately, and one of the series I started reading that I shouldn't have was one of those factory-created ones that always get canceled if I like them. I liked it, so of course the fourth book seems to be delayed indefinitely.  Drat.

A bit more than halfway through the first installment, I was rolling my eyes at the predictability and hoping there would be at least some surprises before the end. I was getting all snotty and composing a review in my head where I would heave a huge literary sigh and say that it was entertaining but it was hardly Tales of the Otori or Kaze Hikaru or even Rowland's Sano Ichiro Novels. I was, of course, ignoring the fact that this series wasn't trying to be as rigorously historically accurate and really couldn't be, so it wasn't fair of me to judge it for being what it was instead of what it was not intended to be.

And then, things started getting unpredictable. One professional review I read mentioned that because of what it is (a revenge drama), there are certain predictable elements, but the story weaves in a lot of unexpected turns and surprises. If you catch yourself thinking, "Well of course this is where the story will end up," be ready to be wrong.

I wish the series had taken pains to be more authentic because then I would have been able to turn my inner armchair sociologist off and just immerse myself in the story wholeheartedly. Multiple times every book, I wanted to get to a reference book to see if I was wrong or the book was.

However, the books aren't aimed at adult Japanophiles who get irritated when they know things are getting out-of-whack culturally or historically or otherwise. I would just prefer readers to get an exciting read that's not going to give them inaccurate history/culture lessons.  Maybe its intended audience would be driven to go do some research and find out more and get the truth that way.  I may also be frustrated that the theory seems to be that there's no need for that much cultural accuracy because the books' intended audience would likely be bored by such accuracy and just wants an exciting read, correct or not.

They probably also want to know how the series ends, so let's hope enough people buy the first three that the publisher starts releasing new volumes, especially after how that third one ended. So cruel.

Do you have any favorite historical fiction for the 8-18 age groups?

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