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Lord of the Darkwood

The Lord of the Darkwood is the final installment in the  Fantasy series The Tale of Shikanoko by Lian Hearn. The Tale of Shikanoko is inspired by medieval Japan and although the series takes place in a fictional setting, the beautiful descriptions of the Snow Country and the wilderness of Japan are clearly taken from the visits Hearn conducted during research. Lord of the Darkwood continues from the previous novel, Emperor of the Eight Islands. The complexity of intrigue and the movement of divine forces like the Tengu increase the efforts on behalf of Heaven to restore the rightful emperor or to the Lotus throne. The Tengu orchestrate events as they move players on the board of Go, using Shikanoko and the children of the Old People to fulfill the desires of Heaven, restoring rain and prosperity of the Eight Islands. The Tale of Shikanoko places the foundations and foreshadows the characters and events that will take place in other series by  Lian Hearn, the Tales of the Otori. There are several influential groups introduced in the Tale of Shikanoko that are prominent in the later series the Tales of the Otori including the development of the Tribe, the sect of the Hidden and the establishment of the Maruyama and Otori clans.
The series The Tale of Shikanoko offers much more than the foundations for the events in the Tales of the Otori and is in itself, a wonderful and complex story, rich in mythical lore and medieval Japanese folktales. Skilfully written and highly recommended!