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Review of Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

turner_samurai risingSamurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
by Pamela S. Turner; 
illus. by Gareth Hinds
Intermediate, Middle School    Charlesbridge    236 pp.
2/16    978-1-58089-584-2    $16.95

Turner (The Frog Scientist, rev. 9/09) is best known for her science books for children; here she delivers an excellent biography of Japan’s legendary samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune. Because he lived more than eight hundred years ago and few reliable sources for the facts of his life exist, it’s not the sort of biography that leaves you intimately acquainted with the subject. (Of course, the basic outline of Yoshitsune’s life is present, and Turner has worked assiduously to add some color to the outline, speculating where appropriate.) However, Samurai Rising has great appeal as military history. Turner’s action-packed accounts of Yoshitsune’s daring and courageous feats in battle, both as a fighter and as a leader, and his ensuing meteoric rise through the ranks of the samurai make for compelling reading. She’s taken full advantage of the story’s inherent politics and intrigue, treachery and betrayal to write a rollicking good work of narrative nonfiction, and Hinds’s digitally assisted brush-and-ink illustrations heighten the mood and atmosphere throughout. More than seventy pages of back matter (which includes author’s notes, source notes, timelines, glossary, bibliography, and index) provide further support for the reader. The back cover warns: “Very few people in this story die of natural causes.” Turner delivers on the promise of that hook, and it will leave lovers of military history clamoring for more of this type.

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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