on April 10, 2013 :
Once again Sessha Batto manages to rip your heart out and hand it to you on a platter still beating, this time with a Shakesperean panache: tales within tales, and an ending wrought from the very depths of despair.
It begins at the beginning, a chance encounter in current times, curiosity about a monument and the question: would you like to hear more? And so begins the story…
Set in a time of war, in a culture different from our own, yet with characters we can relate to and situations as complex as the heart itself, the author takes us on an emotional whirlwind where two men as different as night and day embark on a journey of self-discovery and a joining of spirits.
Ryuu wasn’t born into slavery but that’s where he ended up and the small choices and fickle hand of fate placed him in a favored position as teacher and scribe. Purchased by Aoshi, a warlord with radical ideas and a plan to unite the warring kingdoms, Oshiro must reconcile his attraction to the man who offers friendship in place of servitude with the expectations of the commander’s troops who see him as nothing more than a pleasure slave.
The tension that builds around the two men’s growing emotional investment in each other is palpable and cut through with the jealousies, expectations and cultural imperatives of a warrior culture that values strength above weakness.
When Aoshi elevates Ryuu to a status that many in the warlord’s orbit find disquieting, if not outright unacceptable, their relationship becomes fuel for the forces acting behind the scenes to remove Aoshi from power and to derail the reforms he has worked so hard to instill.
Politics, social pressure, self-doubts, self-sacrifice, redemption and an all-consuming passion ignite the pages of Strength of Will. It is populated with colorful and unique characters who add scope and depth to the fabric of the story without overwhelming the central tragic tale unfolding on every page.
This is homoerotic literature with the elements of a tragedy and the heart-stopping vibe of a forbidden romance. It is explicit and compelling and sometimes violent. It may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but if it’s yours, then you will appreciate this reviewer giving it 5 stars.
(reviewed the day of purchase)