The Weeping Empress

Rated 3.40/5 based on 20 reviews
Chiyo Alglaeca was happy in her life, until it was all taken away. Forced into notoriety, stalked by a mysterious cult, hunted by the emperor, and facing betrayal at every turn she clings to the only safety she can find: two enigmatic men and the sharp bringer of death, Salvation. The Weeping Empress explores the devastating effects of loss, the hunt for redemption, and the price of destiny. More

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About Sadie S. Forsythe

Sadie Forsythe hails from the Southeastern United States, lives in Northwestern England, and is a fan of all things Japanese. She holds degrees in Anthropology/ Comparative Religion, International Criminology and Social Change. She loves local coffee shops, geek culture, everything bookish, and tea (steaming with milk and sweet iced). She is married with two daughters and an imaginary dog.

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Review by: Fajriy Arunna on Sep. 29, 2016 :
Chiyo finds herself in the middle of a battle of unknown people in the unknown land. She has her memory but no idea of how she got there. Joining other survivors, she hopes to find a way back to her life with her family. Along the way, she learns that she is involved in something beyond the level she can understand.
I read the first few pages quickly, aiming to get the answer or clue, just as Chiyo does. As her confusion, curiosity, and anger grow, so did mine. Realizing the answer was not there, I gave up and let the story takes me into whatever lies in it. I found myself immersed into Chiyo's feelings, thoughts, and actions. But, what happens to Chiyo after the first half of the book is not so difficult for me to guess.
This is an interesting story about acceptance, trust, and belief with strong female lead.
(reviewed 62 days after purchase)

Review by: Marti xx on May 15, 2014 :
"For some, death is an art," a voice behind her said. "For others, it is merely an inevitability."

Gee, this was an interesting book. Actually, more than interesting.

Did you ever have one of those days, or periods of days, where what you really wanted to be doing was slashing a honking big sword at everybody and everything that annoyed you, and then say to yourself, 'Well, they needed killing.' Yeah. Me, too. Well, here's your chance to do that vicariously through Chiyo Alglaeca, a perfectly normal young mommie with a nice husband and a darling 3 year old child, who wakes up one bright morning to find she has been mysteriously transported to another place, and another time. Another dimension?

It seems sort of like feudal Japan, but maybe not exactly. We are never told exactly where, but there is a cruel Emperor who lives in a great castle high on a bluff, and the place is referred to as the kingdom.

Anyway, she is right in the middle of a group of conscripts being taken in lieu of money to work in some function of the Emperor. (I forget exactly. If I had a penchant for detail, I could get a real job.) Upon seeing a frail elderly woman being cruelly treated then killed for not moving fast enough, Mz. Chiyo goes into action, and well, the game is on.

Without knowing diddly squat about sword fighting, she picks one up and starts flailing away, to the amusement and interest of a couple of rebel types who have come to disrupt the human caravan, and thus provoke the Emperior, which they have being doing for years. They agree to help the group escape by taking them far away to a river border to a place they will be safe. More swordplay, more slashing and flailing, which certainly gets their attention.

The three become companions, and the two guys, Muhjah and Senka, begin to teach her how to properly handle the sword. She works hard at learning and eventually becomes an excellent warrior in her own right, and she and her two companions do a Robin Hood/Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde throughout the countryside, wrecking havoc against the forces of the Emperor.
And if all this weren't paranormal enough for you, we now introduce you to Kali, the Goddess. She had been worshipped by the animals and humans since time immemorial, but times have changed, and the humans have drifted away from her. She promises to send her Arm to free her people. And it soon becomes apparent that Chiyo is thought to be that Arm of the Goddess, and is becoming revered throughout the land, as tales of her powers and that of her two companions, begin to spread.

You know how so many sci fi, apocalypse and dystopian stories are about how we humans are destroying our resources and our planet, and how that theme, serious as it is and true, sort of gets tedious after about the 70th book? Well, this is the same, in disguise, and it isn't until after you close the book and think back on the story that you realize that it is a parable. Kali the Goddess is the Earth, and her devotees and followers who have rather abandoned her are, well, US. And how we are always looking for a savior to get us out of this mess.

Wonderful read, filled with Latin quotes, and lyrical writing. And a real kick-ass female warrior. So get your bad self on, grab a sword, and swing away!
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)

Review by: Sandy on July 03, 2013 :
Cast into a world in which you might only read about, Chiyo awakes to finds herself in a battle alongside Muhjah and Senka for which they are saving refugees from a group of warriors. Her husband Michael and baby Hannah have vanished (where? She does not know) and Chiyo must figure out how she came to arrive at this nightmare of a life. Her simple life is no longer an option as she must travel with the duo to help these refugees find their freedom again. Under the care of Muhjah and Senka, Chiyo must learn to fight and learns the way of the sword to survive in her new surroundings. Chiyo becomes quite the warrior and rumors spread throughout the land that she is the Chosen One of the Goddess, fighting for the freedom and sacrificing her body for the ones held captive. How can this be, when only a while ago she was a wife and mother? Muhjah and Senka try to keep Chiyo from hearing the rumors and Chiyo doesn’t give it a second thought when the rumors pass over her ears. From the way she fights, a very strong and capable fighter, she can thank Muhjah and Senka for those skills. Between the three of them, they seize every opportunity for combat that they can find. In the meantime, the Emperor who controlled the refugees before the trio released them, sent his men out to find them as he seeks the Chosen One. He wants her to join up with him and together they will fight. But where will that leave the refugees and Muhjah and Senka? She has been traveling with these people for years learning the ways of the Sacerdotisa and they have a tight bond. As the Emperor’s people throw Chiyo in a cell, will her strength be enough to keep her alive? What will happen to Chiyo and is she the Chosen One?
Chiyo is one tough lady. To have a deaf ear and not listen to the voices of the people as they whisper behind your back when it is such a glowing review, takes a very strong individual. When the people where voicing that she was a Chosen person and she ignored it, did not question them, or did not ask Muhjah or Senka for more information that was amazing. I would have been all over that! She could have been all proud and mighty but she remained calm and reserved. Muhjah and Senka were wonderful characters and I loved them just as much as Chiyo or perhaps even more. They were witty and they fed off each other. Lots of little stories and legends intertwined in this novel which added dimension and charm. I thought Sadie paid attention to her word choice in the book and the language flowed so well during much of the novel. There were a few times though, I was overwhelmed with too many words and I had to stop and reread a section. What a wonderful, in-depth story and the ending was fantastic.
"Their bodies littered the floor like deep piles of autumn leaves."
(reviewed 63 days after purchase)

Review by: Carol on June 02, 2013 :
Reading this rather dark fantasy, I thought I could tell how it would conclude but it managed to surprise me. A memorable story.
(reviewed 11 months after purchase)

Review by: Diane Rapp on May 23, 2013 :
A dark “fairytale” worthy of the Brothers Grimm

When Chiyo wakes up in a strange world, dressed in pajamas, she’s unprepared for the violence and danger that await. How did she get there? Why did someone pluck her ordinary life with a husband and young daughter? Fortunately Chiyo meets two samurai warriors, Senka and Muhjah. Without knowing how to fight, the girl grabs a sword and jumps into the bloody battle to save herself. She gains a grain of respect from the warriors, who let her tag along in their journey.

She’s landed in a cruel world, filled with death, destruction, and unjust treatment by the rulers. Can Chiyo learn to survive while she searches for a way to return to her own world and find her family? This is not a fairytale where the lost princess finds a knight to fight her battles and lives happily ever after. This is a gritty tale of hardship and determination. Chiyo must swiftly learn to wield her own sword and steal herself against the revulsion of killing. She works hard and becomes good at it.

Chiyo joins the expert swordsmen to fight “hit and run” skirmishes against cruel rulers. Although survival fuels her efforts in the beginning, revenge becomes her motivation to live and fight day after day. Chiyo becomes a legend, and religious zealots seek to use her as a weapon to restore their power.

This is not a typical sword and sorcery tale. There’s plenty of bloody fighting, gruesome battles, dramatic sword play, and distasteful torture. Chiyo is not an ordinary beautiful damsel in distress. She dives in and wields a sword, learns to cultivate the “monster” inside that enjoys fighting, and wins one battle at a time. Chiyo won’t let others control her destiny, and uses her own sorrow and anger to wreak a just revenge. It’s a “fairytale” worthy of the Brothers Grimm but not one fit for children.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)

Review by: Brandi M. Polier on Jan. 06, 2013 :
I give this 3.5 stars. I did enjoy it, but it was much too brutal for my taste. Reminiscent of watching a Quentin Terintino film. Great story, but way too much gory detail. Also, I couldn't relate to any of the characters. They were all too vengeful and full of anger.
(reviewed 7 months after purchase)

Review by: hg47 on Nov. 18, 2012 :
I'm a new Sadie S. Forsythe fan. Empress is not my preferred type of reading, but Sadie won me over completely with her superb narrative drive. She is a GrandMaster--excuse me, GrandMistress--at narration. This book should be on bestseller lists, if there is any justice in "this world."

Now my method of dealing with time travel is to go all High Tech, get into Time Renormalizing Theory and Closed Timelike Curves and then cop-out by saying that superior aliens developed the technology which is beyond our poor human brains to understand anyway. I almost like Sadie's way better; she just dumps the time traveler into a new time: "Deal with it, girl!"

I got sucked into the story in the first few pages, and quickly became caught up in heroine Chiyo's new life. She has to fight to survive, from hour one. She chooses her allies on the enemy of my enemy theory.

The only structural flaw in this awesome story that I could see was the lack of flying weapons, like spears and arrows; but it didn't dent my enjoyment, just made me wonder why there weren't any.

Stop reading reviews! Read her free sample! If you don't buy it, I'll eat my digital bits: my 1s and 0s. @hg47
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)

Review by: Chris Bullock on Sep. 10, 2012 :
I found that the story line and plot showed great potential, but I was put off by the sometimes complicated and wordy adjectives and phrases. Unfortunately this prevented me from completing my read of the book. There were simply too many convoluted words that were either superfluous or meaningless - I feel that the novel would benefit from a simpler rewrite.
(reviewed 53 days after purchase)

Review by: Derek Broughton on Sep. 06, 2012 :
Perhaps I owe someone a bit of an apology. A while back, I had an argument with a self-published author who claimed that readers held indie authors to a higher standard than those published by mainstream houses. I disagreed. I have to admit that perhaps we were both right to a degree. The problem is, readers give authors a bit of a bye when their work goes through a large publishing house. It's the publisher's responsibility to see that the work is properly edited, and even when it's obvious that the writer can't write, we blame the publishers, because their editors should have caught and fixed the problem.

So, in the case of self-publishing, I still maintain, we're not harder on the author-as-author, but we may be harder on the author-as-publisher! I will repeat my mantra: no author, independent or not, can afford to publish work that has not been edited by a qualified third-party. Which gets to the long-missed point of this review —

This is a fine story, and with good editing it would be worth at least 3 stars, quite possibly 4, but the editing (if there even was any) is tragic. It's not just the silly typos ("loose" for "lose", at least three times), they're not actually much more common than in many a mainstream novel. It's the use of sentence structure that is either, at worst, bad English, or at best, local idiom. It's the use of local trade names (hands up if you know what a "Sheila maid" is - and if you do, would you expect to encounter it in an Oriental-themed fantasy?). It's redundancy: "She hadn't recalled hitting her head, but she obviously had" - if you've done your job as an author (and she did!) you don't need to insult the reader by saying "she obviously had". It's the use of words and phrases that the author has probably used all her life, but are just plain wrong: somehow, I feel a Kimono dragon is just not quite as frightening as she intended.

All in all, I'd be happy to reread the 2nd edition, when a publisher picks it up, but I'm not likely to read another self-published Forsythe.
(reviewed 50 days after purchase)

Review by: Michal Ramati on Aug. 17, 2012 :
The book seems like a nice idea - a somewhat different riff on the being-pulled-out-of-time trope - that hasn't really fulfilled its potential. In a way, it is as if the book wasn't quite finished. Aside from the (way too many) typos, some parts of the story haven't been totally thought through. The main characters don't seem whole, their motivations aren't clear and they are very difficult to identify with. The two main supporting characters feel more like props than human beings.
The parts I liked best in this book were the prologue and the epilogue, which suggests that this book has potential, but perhaps requires another look by the author to make it work. I found myself wishing midway that the book would end soon.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)

Review by: Tara Peterson on Aug. 12, 2012 :
I feel like I've been dropped into a Japaname cartoon. Never before have I visualized the characters as I've read this way and I owe it to the dialog. It is clipped and way to brief, and when a character speaks to the heroine, Chiyo, she responds way out of proportion to the question or statement. Very much like the drama-queen females of Japanese animation. I really had problems identifying with the characters in this story; their responses to situations were completely foreign to me. For example: Chiyo is given a very expensive sword as a gift. Later she discovers that the name of her husband and daughter (whom she has lost) were engraved with the words "never forget" or something like that. Personally I think that's wonderful and was very thoughtful that her two male companions thought to do that. But not Chiyo; she flies into a rage and beats on the guy sitting next her. He takes it but the bruises take a week to heal, and this is OK? People lose loved ones all the time, we move on, or should. We should not feed a blinding rage and violent beast within us that craves senseless blood lust.
The epilogue was good.
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)

Review by: Tara Peterson on Aug. 12, 2012 : (no rating)
I feel like I've been dropped into a Japaname cartoon. Never before have I visualized the characters as I've read this way and I owe it to the dialog. It is clipped and way to brief, and when a character speaks to the heroine, Chiyo, she responds way out of proportion to the question or statement. Very much like the drama-queen females of Japanese animation. I really had problems identifying with the characters in this story; their responses to situations were completely foreign to me. For example: Chiyo is given a very expensive sword as a gift. Later she discovers that the name of her husband and daughter (whom she has lost) were engraved with the words "never forget" or something like that. Personally I think that's wonderful and was very thoughtful that her two male companions thought to do that. But not Chiyo; she flies into a rage and beats on the guy sitting next her. He takes it but the bruises take a week to heal, and this is OK? People lose loved ones all the time, we move on, or should. We should not feed a blinding rage and violent beast within us that craves senseless blood lust.
The epilogue was good.
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)

Review by: Jim on Aug. 12, 2012 :
What kind of name is Chiyo? Should have known from the heroine’s name that this work was an attempt at pretension. Now I’ve only read the first chapter and intend to give the book time to redeem itself, but . . .
Who uses words like ‘accoutrement’ in modern fiction? Did the author just buy a thesaurus or did she not know how to use one? This is just one blaring example of poor word choices. Her choice of words, too often distract from the story and its flow.
Next is the issue of pacing. She’s being attacked, it’s over, no a new attack, no it’s over, no she’s being attacked again. The switches were often so abrupt I got whiplash!
As I say I’ve just read the first chapter and quite frankly don’t care about any of the characters yet. If I don’t by the end of the second chapter I’m done.
I do see some interesting issues of plot and character, but they are unrealized in this tome.
(The use of the word tome is an example of an inappropriate use of a word. Although it’s applicable, it’s not the best choice.)
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Barbara Brasfield on Aug. 10, 2012 :
Couldn't get past first two pages, the writing was that amateurish. Independently published does not need to equate to poor writing skills. I'm more than willing to wait for a book to develop momentum before pulling me into the story, but trudging through seas of excessive adverbs, mental states reported instead of described, wooden dialog - well I could go on, but maybe you'll get the picture. I don't want to be more cruel than necessary. Anyhow, I just couldn't do it. There are too many actually good books waiting on my reading list.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Kim Pyrros on Aug. 07, 2012 :
Incredible! This book grabbed me! Free from the ARR Program, I read it because it seemed interesting...I found a great adventure. What would happen if I was snatched out of my life and placed elsewhere? How would I survive? Chiyo wasn't anyone special but somehow she was destined for more. Sadie S. Forsythe is an incredible writer using marvelous language that evokes feeling of deep insight into each character. She tells a story with extraordinary detail and depth. This is a book I wont forget.
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)

Review by: Scott Skipper on Aug. 03, 2012 :
Imagine a modern housewife and mother wakes under strange skies, the last thing she remembers is having a glass of wine while she loads the dishwasher. When she is fully awake she finds that she is in the midst of a battle. Two samurai warriors are attempting to save a cluster of refugees from a larger band of warriors. What else can she do? She joins the fight.
Chiyo discovers that she is in Dashkalil, which is curiously similar to feudal Japan. The two samurai conduct the refugees and Chiyo to “safety” and along the way they develop a bond with the mysterious foreign woman. They train her in the use of the sword and as word of her mercenary exploits spread it is rumored that she is fulfilling a prophesy of the Sacerdotisa cult.
Sadie S. Forsythe has created an extraordinarily imaginative story and executed it masterfully. It has shades Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian series, Poe's Tale of the Ragged Mountains and even The Twilight Zone. It is reminiscent of the work of Robert Heinlein and Ursula K. LeGuin. The Weeping Empress challenges categorization. It is certainly action and adventure. It’s perhaps science fiction and might be thought of as fantasy. It even hints of historical fiction and psychological thriller.

I can’t praise it enough. It’s simply brilliant.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)

Review by: Angie Lenkevich on July 17, 2012 :
Chiyo Alglaeca was living a happy with her husband Michael and their daughter Hannah. When she unexpectedly finds herself in a faraway land of Dashkalil with no memory of how she got there. She meets up with Muhjah and Senka on the road escaping the nyims wrath. Muhjah and Senka are drawn to Chiyo in ways neither can explain. Chiyo does not accept being helpless and tries to change her circumstances for herself and those around her. Senka believes Chiyo is Muhjah's pet project and limits his contact with her. Muhjah starts teaching Chiyo how to defend herself and eventually Senka helps with this as well. Andela secretly worships in the Sacerdosita of Kali and knows of a little known prophecy about the Arm of the Goddess. Andela believes that Chiyo is the Arm of the Goddess. Senka, Muhjah, and Chiyo disrupt the nyims all over Dashkalil but avoid the capital city in their wanderings. Emperor Kenichi is tired of this band of rebels being a thorn in his side. It's time to bring this to an end. Chiyo is captured and tortured at the Emperor's command. Senka and Muhjah rescue Chiyo with the help of Sacerdosita on one condition but neither of them like the condition yet accept it. Will Chiyo ever return to her family? What does Chiiyo think of the condition? Can Senka and Muhjah help Chiyo in her task? What is the ultimate goal of Sacerdosita? Your answers await you in The Weeping Empress.
(reviewed 41 days after purchase)

Review by: Christine Keleny on July 12, 2012 :
Genre: YA fiction fantasy

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Chiyo Alglaeca was happy in her life. That is, until it was all taken away. Forced into notoriety, stalked by a mysterious cult, hunted by the emperor, and facing betrayal at every turn she clings to the only safety she can find: two enigmatic men and the sharp bringer of death, Salvation. The Weeping Empress explores the devastating effects of loss, the hunt for redemption, and the price of destiny. It questions the true meaning of evil and asks what monster is not also an innocent?

Things I liked: I like how the author made up a whole new religion. I assume it's a new religion. I've never heard of it and as odd as this religion is, I think I would have. I also like that the religion has no rules - as unlikely as that might be, and that the head of this religion is a woman. That the main character, Chiyo, is a strong woman. I like the epilogue too, but I won't say why because that will give something away for people who want to read the book.

Things I didn't like: Chiyo falls into this past time and easily develops a blood lust. Later on in the story the author explains more about this, but I think it would have worked better - been more believable if she would have put that explanation earlier in the story. It just seems out of place for a modern day wife, mother, and presumed employed female of the 20th century to fall back in time and not bat an eye at opening people up with a sword. I can understand her first battle - it was a matter of survival, but it should have really taken Chiyo a while to "enjoy" all the killing she does or at least have a reasonable explanation for it, but that doesn't come until later. I also would like to have seen why the bad guy - the Emperor - was such a bad guy. You just have to take it on faith that he is but it's hard to root for Chiyo and her killing cohorts -Senka and Muhlah - when you know nothing about why he is bad. I also don't get the logic of Kali, the Goddess that is the head of this religion, and why she is asking he followers to do what they do related to Chiyo - which is why Chiyo ends up as she does. Maybe I'm dense, but I don't get it. And lastly, the use of foreign words is make reading it difficult because most of the time Forsythe does not give you any context to figure out what the words means or a translation within the story. She does it on occasion so I'm not sure why she didn't do it throughout.

As you can see, I have more things that I don't like about it than I do, but overall, it wasn't a bad story, it just needs some polishing.

Rated: 3/5

Thank you Sadie for a free e-copy of this book.
(reviewed 45 days after purchase)

Review by: L. S. Fayne on July 10, 2012 :
I don’t really understand why, but I know this book is important to be read! It strikes a deep personal note. It’s personally enlightening.

The book is stark and pungent. It made me feel restless, recognizing that something was stirring on a deeper level than that which I understood. As I read on, I asked just where was this concept coming from, and where was it going? How the hell did it even get to evolve? It’s not just a book, or just a story. It’s a rousing. To personal anger or madness? No, but to something recognized by the primitive part of the soul.

I had trouble with the very first couple of paragraphs. In point of fact, I groaned. I read on deciding to trust in the author, and she delivered. I realized the reason for my problem with the beginning was that I didn’t find it very creditable. That was because Chiyo’s response was totally foreign to me. If it was me waking up as she did, my fight or flight instinct would be kicking in probably before I even opened my eyes! She didn’t rouse to any level of emotion until the solders roughed her up, and only then did she berserk. I realized that this was just a sleep patterning difference. It had nothing to do with the believability of the book. Different people would in fact, stir differently. Chiyo was simply lethargic upon waking.

I understand her “beast”. I would term it a berserker rage. Giving in to that rage, will give a person strength and push fear aside, allowing them to do amazing things. Chiyo was furiously angry and felt that she had already lost everything. This gave her the freedom to seek and cling to her darker nature. The killing allowed her to distract herself from all that she had lost, and give her an outlet to the anger. I understand the initial rage. I don’t understand its continuation. That’s okay. I’d rather not understand if you get my drift. She later felt betrayed yes, but she was already a killing machine. The betrayal was not an excuse to the killing.

I liked Muhjah and Senka, but never understood their madness. Senka needed to kill. Muhjah’s purpose seemed to be to direct Senka’s killing. It was shocking to realize their brutality, and still like them as characters. Part of that liking though was because of the way they absorbed Chiyo.

The concept of the Goddess was interesting. It wasn’t intrusive to the story, but did come across as real. I liked the relationship between the Goddess, mankind, and the snake.

The story was shocking in the careless way it portrayed killing. It was brutal and swift. It was deliberate. I have often wondered just how our ancestors managed this. It’s a fact that they did. Have we really evolved away from this? We still kill, but not so much with hands on, not so personally. I’ve seen the eyes of solders who have killed hands on. They come back different, dark. The term , “eyes of a killer” is true. They are never the same again. We see the nonchalant killing in the movies, but in reality, those who kill, rent their souls.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)

Review by: Sitt Elhosn on June 30, 2012 :
Being a Fan of Japanese fighting movies and recently also into action video games like call of duty made it for me easy to follow the action filled novel. I am rather got used to this form and I might as well see that this novel will make an excellent playstation or xbox game which I would want to play rather than read. This way it is more graphical. I imagine to play in the novels heroine character Chiyo who is taken by a supernatural force out of her modern natural environment and placed into another world, that has no particular background information until you read several chapters and even then I wasn't fully satisfied. Though the idea to implement the idea of Chiyo the heroine and empress to be of the vast land of Dashkalil. But for a game it might be alright. The description of the fighting scenes is immense, I didn't had any knowledge of samurai fighting at all, here you will get a glimpse of what it is like with some of its rules. This might as well be integrated very well into the game with different levels of expertise and ascension in degree and levels.
But this novel is not for everyone, even those that are into adventure fantasy with supernatural context. Accordingly for myself, one time reading is enough.

I like the fantasy stories more descriptive making the background information detailed, but am glad that I tried out something totally unfamiliar to my reading style.

As I said earlier I find this novel to be an excellent adventure action game in progress, that I would want to play eagerly but don't need to read.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)

Review by: Daniel Quentin Steele on June 02, 2012 :
"The Weeping Empress" is a relatively short, fast moving epic fantasy of the sort that used to be called sword and sorcery, except that this is a story of swords and civil war and mythology. There are no sorcerers casting spells, although there is magic and there are cults and a female Deity moving in the affairs of men.

Chiyo Alglaeca, apparently an American wife and mother, wakes up one day to find herself in the middle of a feudal massacre by sword-wielding Samurai types in some strange world. Her life is saved by two uber-warriors who save her in passing and not out of any greater regard for her life than that of the people being slaughtered around them.

There is never, or at least not for a long time, any explanation for how a modern American woman wakes up in a strange world. Which is one of the things that moves the reader. Chiyo really has no way to be sure that this is not some feverish dream, but there is a human urge to keep yourself alive even in the middle of a dream. But the question of what has happened to her young daughter, to the husband who loves her, torments her. The work this most closely parallels is "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant," an intricately woven, long fantasy about a writer suffering from leprosy who fights accepting the reality of the world he has been thrust into.

In Chiyo's case, she doesn't fight acceptance of her new life, but merely melds into it as she moves within a nightmare, living the life of a rebel against a cruel Emperor, turned into a master warrior by her two protectors.

As the novel progresses, it turns from an epic of swordplay into a story of an Earth Mother/snake goddess cult jousting with the political powers of Chiyo's new world. And in the end, the story of this war between Goddess and Emperor holds the secret of how Chiyo's life has been upended.

The novel slows in the middle section, but has a dramatic ending and one that is not only unforeseen, but one that tugs at the heartstrings. As a reader, I wish the story had ended differently than it does, but it wouldn't stick in the mind so forcefully with another ending.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)

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