The Silver Flame

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The Silver Flame shimmers like the fires of hell, and it attracts people who are unafraid to kill: an American samurai on a quest to uncover a secret; a treacherous geisha on a hunt for perfection; and an illustrious thief who craves beauty. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and in the Land of the Rising Sun even a phoenix can feel the touch of death. More

Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf

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Published: June 10, 2012
Words: 42,190
Language: English
ISBN: 9781476251226
About James Carter

Born in London and educated at Oxford, James Carter spends his life pursuing challenges. By the age of 25 he had driven from Cape Town to Cairo in a dune buggy, and sailed across the Pacific in a yacht crewed by himself and his best friend.

James currently lives in India where he teaches English and courts controversy by staging school plays that call for the empowerment of women and children. He is an active critic of India’s caste system and works with numerous shelters in Delhi that support victims of domestic violence.

He can be contacted at olympusworld@gmail.com

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Reviews

Review by: Celina Cuadro on July 30, 2012 : (no rating)
"Those who live by the sword, die by the sword" - James Carter expands this old adage to a full-blown story in his novel The Silver Flame. This action-packed tale is filled with captivating images and intriguing characters. Set in the waning years of the Japanese samurai, stark beauty is paired with violence, and freedom comes at a very high price.

It is 1871, Japan is in its Meiji Era, and American Malachi Cole is honing his fighting skills under the tutelage of his teacher Isamu at the House of the Burning Blades. Meanwhile, in the city's pleasure district called the Floating World, the geisha known far and wide as Scarlet Orchid was making elaborate preparations for her solo performance at the River Festival. Both have masked their deepest secrets by aspiring for perfection: Malachi Cole runs from his memories of the American Civil War by devoutly learning the way of the warrior, while the beautiful Scarlet Orchid draws her phenomenal dancing skills from a secret training regimen more dangerous than her dance instructor's classes. Warrior and geisha would never have met were it not for the greedy machinations of an unseen hand that desired Isamu's sword, The Silver Flame. Once the sword was spirited away, these two lives, along with quite a few others, would go through a violent upheaval that forever changed the seemingly perfect facade of their lives.

I found it interesting that James Carter made this story a study in contrasts using concepts that didn't normally contrast with each other. For example, Beauty or Perfection is not an opposing concept to Violence or Rage. And yet Beauty/Perfection was designated as 'yin', paired with Violence as its 'yang' - Malachi tried to escape the war of his own country by pursuing the martial beauty of another country's warrior lifestyle. Scarlet Orchid (known to those "who were plain and ordinary" as Mai) was perfection when she danced, and yet she resorted to violence to sharpen her skills and fuel her rage and ambitions. Even the artist Yoshiro Aso, a purveyor and creator of beautiful things, resorted to underhanded yet violent means to ferret away what he considered a thing of beauty, The Silver Flame. Carter managed to make this artificial contrast work for readers like me by linking Beauty/Perfection to a feeling of imprisonment. Mai was a prisoner of her beauty - as a renown geisha of the pleasure district, she was bound to the lifestyle by her patrons, and to the mistress who bought her as a child. Malachi's apprentice, Katsu, so desired the 'beautiful life' of a samurai, but he was barred from it because of his station in life, being only a gardener's son. Even the venerable Isamu, Malachi's teacher, and Isamu's fellow samurai and friend Master Katashi, who have attained 'perfection' as samurai, were trapped in their aging bodies - bodies that could no longer keep up with their knowledge and skill. Carter dispensed with too much exposition about the origins of these characters, but instead established that they were trapped - by beauty/perfection or from attaining it - and my attention as a reader was held until such time as an event of violent force came along to shatter that imprisonment.

The Silver Flame has enough action, stark beauty, and intriguing characters to captivate many readers. For those like me however who also happened to follow James Carter's writing career, there was the added gift of being witness to a rather enjoyable thought experiment, not unlike watching an painter drawing a series of study sketches in preparation for an upcoming masterpiece. A very interesting read.
(review of free book)

Review by: marco wylie on July 29, 2012 : star star star star star
"The Silver Flame" by James Carter is a story of thievery and murder and vengeance. It opens with this sentence: "The Silver Flame sliced through the droplet of emerald green water, splitting it in two." One could say of Carter that he writes with an elegant precision equal to that of the great sword, but the world he gives us -- in which pure beauty and squalid evil reside side by side -- is not so easily divided.

Carter is not given to exposition. He supplies the year (1871) and the place (Japan) and just enough of a hint about the characters' backgrounds to intrigue the reader and provide plausibility to the plot. Our hero is an American who is trying to escape his horrifying memories of the Civil War by embracing the all-encompassing code of the samurai and its engagement with death. When we first meet him he is running across algae coated planking on a lake, trying to escape the flashing sword held by his mentor: "Gravity grabbed Phoenix and threw him into a world of sparkling green water. A shocking cold pressed against the warrior's body and stole the heat from his imagined wound. There! He saw it in the corner of his right eye… his sword had been sliced in half. The lake surface slowly fell down and parted around (his) lips. Instinctively he took in a gulp of pure air and savored its remarkable taste…He was back from the dead."

Our heroine, too, is trying to escape. In her case it is from the life of bonded apprenticeship as a geisha that has kept her in thrall to a vile old woman who bought her as a child Carter writes: "Those who were plain and ordinary called her Mai, and they saw in her a beauty tinged with rage." But for those with an eye to rarity, she was an exotic red flower who "danced on water, this marvel of the geisha universe, and she moved in time with the shamisen breeze, suspended in flight and completely intimate with the air around her -- one moment a butterfly, the next a bird."

There is nothing plain and ordinary about this novel, but "beauty tinged with rage" might be a fitting
description for "The Silver Flame." Bookreview.com recommends it as excellent.
(review of free book)

Review by: sienna bond on July 29, 2012 : star star star star
"Those who live by the sword, die by the sword" - James Carter expands this old adage to a full-blown story in his novel The Silver Flame. This action-packed tale is filled with captivating images and intriguing characters. Set in the waning years of the Japanese samurai, stark beauty is paired with violence, and freedom comes at a very high price.

It is 1871, Japan is in its Meiji Era, and American Malachi Cole is honing his fighting skills under the tutelage of his teacher Isamu at the House of the Burning Blades. Meanwhile, in the city's pleasure district called the Floating World, the geisha known far and wide as Scarlet Orchid was making elaborate preparations for her solo performance at the River Festival. Both have masked their deepest secrets by aspiring for perfection: Malachi Cole runs from his memories of the American Civil War by devoutly learning the way of the warrior, while the beautiful Scarlet Orchid draws her phenomenal dancing skills from a secret training regimen more dangerous than her dance instructor's classes. Warrior and geisha would never have met were it not for the greedy machinations of an unseen hand that desired Isamu's sword, The Silver Flame. Once the sword was spirited away, these two lives, along with quite a few others, would go through a violent upheaval that forever changed the seemingly perfect facade of their lives.

I found it interesting that James Carter made this story a study in contrasts using concepts that didn't normally contrast with each other. For example, Beauty or Perfection is not an opposing concept to Violence or Rage. And yet Beauty/Perfection was designated as 'yin', paired with Violence as its 'yang' - Malachi tried to escape the war of his own country by pursuing the martial beauty of another country's warrior lifestyle. Scarlet Orchid (known to those "who were plain and ordinary" as Mai) was perfection when she danced, and yet she resorted to violence to sharpen her skills and fuel her rage and ambitions. Even the artist Yoshiro Aso, a purveyor and creator of beautiful things, resorted to underhanded yet violent means to ferret away what he considered a thing of beauty, The Silver Flame. Carter managed to make this artificial contrast work for readers like me by linking Beauty/Perfection to a feeling of imprisonment. Mai was a prisoner of her beauty - as a renown geisha of the pleasure district, she was bound to the lifestyle by her patrons, and to the mistress who bought her as a child. Malachi's apprentice, Katsu, so desired the 'beautiful life' of a samurai, but he was barred from it because of his station in life, being only a gardener's son. Even the venerable Isamu, Malachi's teacher, and Isamu's fellow samurai and friend Master Katashi, who have attained 'perfection' as samurai, were trapped in their aging bodies - bodies that could no longer keep up with their knowledge and skill. Carter dispensed with too much exposition about the origins of these characters, but instead established that they were trapped - by beauty/perfection or from attaining it - and my attention as a reader was held until such time as an event of violent force came along to shatter that imprisonment.
(review of free book)

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