The Japanese theme and the cover is what intrigued me with this paranormal fantasy. The story line itself seems complex for a novella, but I was willing to give it a go.
Prince Narita is slowly fading away and his second in command; Lord General Iwata is incensed when the Prince’s night watch keeps falling asleep. Something sinister is afoot, and when Iwata’s lover, Hiroshi suspects that his sister, Lady Kumomo has been replaced with an imposter in order to gain access to the Prince; Iwata and Hiroshi decide to take the night watch themselves. But what they discover is something their warrior skills can’t fight.
The young Hiroshi is deeply in love with Iwata, but Iwata doesn’t know or recognise the strength of his own feelings for the scarred Hiroshi, too blinded by his affection and devotion for the Prince (who is straight) perhaps? I’m not sure Iwata knows himself…
“Would you cry if Prince Narita died?”
“I don’t know,” Iwata said truthfully. “I wouldn’t know until it happened.”
“What if I died?”
“I don’t know, Hiro”
Do you see what I mean? Iwata is a blank to me.
When Hiroshi’s heart crumbles a little in the face of Iwata’s stoicism and burns instead with a need for vengeance, will their love survive?
So how does it all come together? Well … I like the Japanese references and the strength of the characters honour, but a there isn’t enough pages to give this story real legs. I felt like it was just starting when it ended, or it ended where it should have started – does that make sense? I’m not sure, but for a Bittersweet Dreams novella this story focussed too heavily on the mysterious events surrounding the Prince than the heart of the relationship between Iwata and Hiroshi. None of the characters sang for me and the story didn’t play my tune.
The writing is good and the ending befits a Bittersweet Dreams Title; unfortunately it leaves me feeling bleak rather than reflective.