Death’s Kiss, by Josh Reynolds is published on 1st June by Aconyte and is a crime novel set in the fantasy world of the Legend of the Five Rings role playing game, which is losely based on feudal Japan. It follows Diadoji Shin, a bored aristocrat who has become a sleuth. Shin travels outside the capital, City of the Rich Frog to the Unicorn lands, to find out what set in motion the events leading to a recent death, which threatens to engulf the area in war.
While Legend of the Five Rings is a highly popular fantasy game, Death’s Kiss does not quite forfill it’s promise when it comes to a work of crime fiction. The main issue is that while it is set in a complex built world it unfortunately has not extended the same complexity to it’s charactors. I only found myself drawn to one of them, who I suspect as a member of the supporting cast is not likely to appear in other Daidoji Shin mysteries. Unfortunately this charactor is not strong enough to carry the whole narrative, which is down to the rather paint-by-numbers personality of detective Shin, whose two dimensional predictability tends to flatten rather than enhance any tension or mystery.
The world has a commendable amount of women in roles more important than just wife or girlfriend, has several LGBTI+ charctors who are not just there to die tugging at our heart strings, and presents an array of diffrently abled bodies. However this worthiness is not enough on it’s own to propell the crime afficionado forward. While the core political intregue showed a spark of something that could possibly be developed to gain more depth, it feels like several books would be needed to do so, and without compelling charactors or mystery it may be difficult for die-hard crime fans to commit.
Having said that, for those who are fans of Legend of the Five Rings or are craving a bit of escapisim with a quicky pulpy read, then this maybe a book you will really enjoy. Although Death’s Kiss will not gain a place in my recommendations, I would be hesitant to throw it out completely. If all books conformed to only one person’s standards it would make a very poor reading world indeed. It’s not for me, but it may be for you.
If you are craving worlds based on east-asian cultures I would highly recommend Yoon Ha Lee’s collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories A Conservation of Shadows, availible in the TCF Bookshops recommended shelf.