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Submitted by Dan Bieger
(Oct 27, 2005)
The Sands of Sabakushi, Kevin Radthorne, Windstorm Creative, 2005
This is the second of the tales of Tonogato intended to conclude the business begun in The Road to Kotaishi. After applauding the first tale, it will come as no surprise that I found this tale equally satisfying for many of the same reasons and for two unique to this tale. Radthorne continues as a master story teller briskly pacing his story’s action as well as the revelations necessary to support the action, carrying the reader along at breakneck pace while managing to insert the necessary explanatory detail wherever it is needed.
The twins, Mikasama and Shiko, pursue the missions they accepted in the first tale. At the end of that tale, Mikasama understood she must take up her inheritance and bring the lady mages of Tejinashi into the fold to support her brother as Kotaishi. Shiko, on the other hand, must draw Shukyoshi, Yutakashi, and his own home, Hajimeshi, to join Mikasama’s Tejinashi in a united front to withstand the coming of the Darkness.
This tale is a quest is to obtain and then employ the tool required to defeat the Darkness. In order for the final conflict to happen, three major and two lesser events must occur. With the translation of the goddess from her realm to this realm, an event at the end of the first tale, all the requisite knowledge is now present in the land of Tonogato. What drives the story - at first frustratingly and then satisfyingly clearly – is that, while the knowledge is present in the land, it is not available to the twins. They must play their parts without the benefit of knowing why they are doing what they are doing. Their act of faith is essential to defeating the Darkness.
Equally essential are the actions of two new players. As with the twins, these two must also act from faith. For the young adept from Tejinashi, acquiring the faith means overcoming her own dreams and desires. For the soldier of Yukshoki, it means honoring the faith he already owns.
There are other characters from the first tale who reappear in this tale as well as a couple new characters playing central and supporting roles. Two of the new characters unite to provide a focus for the Darkness’ mechanations and maneuvering. Two more new characters provide the framework for Shiko’s quest to obtain the tool. Radthorne draws these characters with skill and caring. The reader is never caught short wondering how something happened or why this person reacted that way.
The best part of Kevin’s story is the persistent dualism presented. You find this dualism in the manner that Shiko unites Tonogato contrasted with the manner Mikasama earns her birthright. Shiko makes the best choices he can make, acts morally and consistently to perform the task as he understands it all the while fretting that he is not accomplishing the kinds of things a Kotaishi is supposed to accomplish. In the end, it is Shiko’s acceptance of his own humanity that allows him to do what he must do. It is an entirely personal battle waged for entirely altruistic purposes. In the end, I'm not certain that he fully comprehends that his actions enabled a unifed Tonogato to withstand the Darkness.
Mikasama, on the other hand, must survive a physical confrontation. Her battle, while magical, requires the strength, skill, and determination of a classic hero. Yes, she learns a great deal about herself, but her focus is less on becoming the best person she can be as becoming the best leader she can be.
The same dualism is presented with the supporting cast, the female adept and the soldier. The adept must confront her own nature and come to accept who she is though that contradicts everything she has been taught. The soldier must overcome physical barriers to accomplish his part of the quest. My major nit, however, comes with the Radthorne’s treatment of the soldier. While what he does and why he does it are sufficiently clear, this character of all the characters in the book is short-shrifted. I wanted more description of his journey and I wanted to know what happened to him. Radthorne told me the effects of what he did but not the affect it had it on him.
I have rarely read a better examination of character than the battle Shiko conducts within himself. Each of the criticisms he must endure and then refute resonates with me. I could see his misery, understand it, and admire how he sustained himself throughout. Consider the power of “Do you think evil is some ‘thing’ that can be perceived? That it can be picked up, held in one’s hand, and then discarded at will. No, evil comes from within.….You cannot banish that, Shiko. Not until you banish humanity itself.” Evil is a process, not a thing.
Part and parcel of his story is Radthorne’s thought, his sensibilities. He writes of the human condition with sympathy and admiration, giving the reader something to be concerned with as well as something to cheer for. As I have said before, read this story. Be prepared to be engrossed, to be puzzled at turns and delighted at others. Be prepared to submit yourself into the hands of a story teller and know that you are going to lose hours and hours basking in his magic.