Title: The Dragon King’s Palace
Author: Laura Joh Rowland
Laura Joh Rowland’s The Dragon King’s Palace is publicized mainly as a mystery novel. Having not read the seven earlier books which featured her detective, Sano Ichiro, I cannot state whether or not the earlier novels were primarily locatable within the genre of “mystery”.
What is certain however is that The Dragon King’s Palace transcends the mystery novel genre at the same time that much of the plot is located within it. Yes the kidnap of four women of the court, (the mother of the Mikado, the Lord Chamberlain’s wife, Sano Ichiro’s wife and her friend), do lead the reader into the mystery which Sano and Chamberlain Yanagisawa must solve. The novel turns into thriller quite rapidly though, when the reader is exposed to the court intrigues of medieval Japan which locate the Mikado at the centre of power.
Further, the novel challenges the reader to take stock of a number of characters: Sano Ichiro, his wife Reiko and the Lady Yanagisawa whose husband, the Chamberlain is having an affair with the Police Commissioner, Hoshina. We also follow the machinations of the Mikado’s mother, Lady Keisho-in and the petulance of her son, the Mikado. After many loose trails and red herrings, we are led into the palace of and the mind of the Dragon King himself. Rowland’s gift is that she can juggle so many characters and never allow them to be mere devices in advancing the plot. This alone sets the novel apart from many books placed squarely within the mystery genre. The plot is tight, the novel is evenly paced and never lags. I found the novel to be thoroughly enjoyable.
The Dragon King’s Palace by Laura Joh Rowland is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan Australia.