Monday, August 1, 2011

Flying Fish by Sedonia Guillone

TITLE: Flying Fish
AUTHOR: Sedonia Guillone
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 24k)
GENRE: Gay historical erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Daisuke has returned to the land where his wife was murdered in cold blood to seek revenge. What he finds instead is the most beautiful man he’s ever seen bathing in a hot stream. A chance encounter leaves them both yearning for more, though each recognizes it can never be. But when Daisuke can’t get Genji out of his head, a night at the theater changes both of their lives forever…

My TBR pile is big enough that I still have books on it from before I started my review blog. Though this one isn’t quite that old, I was more than a little relieved to clear it off the list, if only because it was such a sweet story to read.

Set in Japan in 1684, it tells the story of Daisuke, a ronin (a masterless samurai), who has returned to the Kai province to seek revenge for the murder of his wife five years earlier. He happens upon Genji bathing in a hot stream, who is the most beautiful man he’s ever seen. They indulge in an afternoon of passion, but because of Daisuke’s mission and Genji’s lack of freedom (he’s owned by the theater owner and is forced to service samurais after each performance), know that it can’t be repeated. Daisuke learns that the man who killed his wife is now dead, replaced by his son, but is warned off on taking his vengeance now. The son is a good man, he is told, and the province is peaceful and prosperous again. Frustrated and not knowing what to do, Daisuke blames part of it on Genji and the fact that he can’t get Genji out of his head. He decides to go see Genji perform, in hopes that will sate the desires that are currently controlling him.

I know very little about Japanese culture, nor do I really care for yaoi, but I was drawn into buying this for its stunning cover and the romantic blurb. I can’t compare it to what seem to be its inspirations, so I have to judge it on its own merits. For all its eroticism, there’s a sweetness that pervades the story almost from the start. Genji, especially, seems delicate but displays stunning strength at the most unexpected times, while Daisuke is the opposite, seemingly invincible but possessing such a soft, broken core I sometimes wonder how he managed to survive long enough to even meet Genji. There’s an almost instant connection between the two, one that translates into the romanticism of their first encounter and makes their inevitable separation a little painful. All of this is wrapped up in highly stylized, overtly romantic prose. There is never any doubt this is meant to be seen through rose-colored glasses. If a reader is willing to give oneself over to that, it can be a quite satisfying read. I was certainly able to do so for a good part of the story, even as I recognized the strings being pulled to manipulate me into feeling the way I did.

That’s a side effect of the stylization for me. It probably wouldn’t bother a lot of readers who are more eager for this kind of storytelling. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but I never forgot I was reading, and I never felt immersed in the passion of what they were feeling. I went through the bulk of the story in a constant state of “Awwwww,” very much like I was watching a performance rather than engaging in it.

Because of this pervasive romanticism to the story, solutions seem easily come by. I can’t say that I bought the ending, even if I was glad for the men’s sake that it happened that way. I just needed something more to push what was an enjoyable read into a wonderful one, a depth rather than the skim over the surface that it felt like I got.


8/10 – Highly, highly romanticized prose, clean but if it isn’t your thing will bog you down

Hero #1

7/10 – Oddly vulnerable in spite of his power, though his turnaround at the end seemed too easy

Hero #2

7/10 – Sweet without being saccharine though I found myself wanting more from his POV to help explain his past

Entertainment value

7/10 – It sometimes felt stylized due to its prose, but there’s such a pervasive sweetness between the heroes that it’s hard to be turned off by it

World building

7/10 – I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, and while it didn’t leap off the page, it certainly explained enough to serve the story



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