Princess Harueme was the half-sister of the deceased
Emperor Shirakawa; aunt to also dead Emperor Horikawa; and
great-grandaunt to Emperor Sutoku. These connections
enabled Harueme to live a luxurious life at the emperor's
court for the past fifty years. Now she recognizes that
not only is she old, but she is dying in spite her great
grandnephew's efforts to provide the best medical care
available. Harueme knows she must leave the court before
she dies in order to avoid a stain her relative's rule.
While packing for her move to a convent, Harueme finds
several unused notebooks that demand she fill the blanks
Harueme scribes the story of a tortoiseshell cat living in
a ramshackle estate until a fire destroyed her home and
killed her relatives. The sole survivor is a feline who
feels lonely as she also lost her FUDOKI, for there is no
one to share the chronicle of all the female cats who
resided in her home. She sets out on a journey to find a
home for her Fudoki and a name for herself.
Kij Johnson's second fantasy based on Japanese myth is as
good if not better than her delightful debut, THE FOX
WOMAN. The themes of this powerful tale are life, dying,
death, and love, but these subjects are deftly placed in
two potent subplots. Harueme's story contrasts with that
of the nameless cat as both face death and a loss of home
with dignity and courage. The two stars enhance this
fabulous thought provoking fantasy that deserves strong
readership. With a fox and a cat in her menagerie, fans
will wonder which animal from Japanese myths Ms. Johnson
will star in her next novel.
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted October 24, 2003
In her skillful debut novel, Kij Johnson took the classic
Japanese myth of the fox who dared to become a woman to win
true love and created The Fox Woman, a luminous, lyrical
tale of love, desire, joy, and the nature of the soul.
Set in the same universe as The Fox Woman, this time Kij
Johnson takes on another animal totem and enters the world
of the creature who comes to be known as Kagaya-hime, a
sometime woman warrior, occasional philosopher, and
reluctant confidante to noblemen.
And who may or may not be the figment of the imagination of
an aging empress who is embarking on the last journey of
her life, setting aside the trappings of court life and
reminiscing as she follows the paths that are leading her
to the nunnery and death.
Fudoki is the tale of a being who starts her journey on the
kami, or spirit road, as a humble-if ever a being such as a
Cat can be humble-small tortoiseshell feline. She has seen
her family destroyed by a fire that decimated most of the
Imperial city. This loss renders her taleless, the only one
left alive to pass on such stories as The Cat Born the Year
the Star Fell, the Cat with a Litter of Ten, the Fire-
Tailed Cat. Without her fudoki-self and soul and home and
shrine-she cannot keep the power of her clan together. And
she cannot join another fudoki because, although she might
be able to win a place within another clan, to do so would
mean that she would cease to be herself.
So a small cat begins an extraordinary journey. Along the
way she will attract the attention of old and ancient
powers, including gods who are curious about this creature
newly come to Japan's shores, and who choose to give the
tortoiseshell a human shape.
And who set her on a new kami road, where Kagaya-hime will
have to choose a way to find what happiness she can.
Weaving a haunting story of one being's transformation and
journey of discovery with the telling of another's long
life set against the backdrop of the courtly rituals of
Imperial power, Kij Johnson has written a powerful novel
about the nature of freedom and the redemptive power of
transformation--if only one is brave enough to risk it all.