5 Exciting Fantasy Books About Samurai or Inspired by Them


The fantasy genre features several stories that revolve around knights, but what about fantasy books about samurai? Or, if not directly about samurai, inspired by them?

These captivating tales may not be as common, but they’re a delight to find. Are you looking for novels featuring these characters? If so, today’s post has a list for you.

Here are 5 fantasy books about samurai to read:

I’ve included book descriptions, readers’ ratings and summaries of positive and negative comments for each one of the books in this list below.

But if you’d prefer a quick summary, here’s a comparison chart.


Nightblade by Ryan Kirk

Description

Ryuu is a boy orphaned by violence at a young age. Found by a wandering warrior, he learns he may have more strength than he ever imagined possible. 

A quiet child, Moriko is forced into a monastic system she despises. Torn from her family and the forest she grew up in, she must fight to learn the skills she’ll need to survive her tutelage under the realm’s most dangerous assassin. 

Young, beautiful, and broke, Takako is sold to pay for her father’s debts. Thrust into a world she doesn’t understand and battles she didn’t ask for, she must decide where her loyalties lie. 

When their lives crash together in a Kingdom on the brink of war, the decisions they make will change both their lives and their Kingdom forever. 

If they can stay alive. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating4.04

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

First on our list of fantasy books about samurai is Nightblade. This novel intrigued fans with its supernatural, Eastern-inspired fantasy world and captivating plot. 

Fans praised the book’s immersive quality and its world-building. With its evocative writing, the story’s atmosphere and setting came vividly alive.

Other readers said that they were captivated by the story itself from the start. In particular, they said that the personal journeys that the main characters went through fascinated them, and seeing them learn and grow was wonderful. 

Negative Comments

What did critics say? In general, readers who didn’t enjoy Nightblade had two reasons.

The first was that they were either drawn out of the story due to editing-related issues. Some of them mentioned that the book had repeating phrases, for instance, that broke their immersion. Others said they detected spelling or grammar mistakes.

On the other hand, others said that they didn’t feel like they got to know the characters. This made it difficult to connect with them, especially during climactic moments.


Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Description

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back.

Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love — a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating3.90

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Second on our list of fantasy books about samurai is Flame in the Mist. Inspired by Mulan, this novel delighted fans with its immersive atmosphere and likable protagonist, Mariko. 

Many readers described the book’s world and scenery as lushly realized. Not only did they find themselves quickly absorbed into the story, but they also mentioned that its Japanese cultural elements were rich and well-researched.

As for Mariko, fans praised her as a brave, intelligent heroine with a moving character arc. Seeing her discover her abilities and what she learns – particularly around finding strength in her femininity – gripped them.

Negative Comments

What did critics say? Overall, critics had to comments about Flame in the Mist.

First, they said that the story’s pace was slow. The second was that Mariko didn’t strike them as an authentically ‘strong female character’. Instead, they thought she either acted spoiled or mouthy without facing consequences.


Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Description

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish — and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure — one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost.

Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating4.00

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of fantasy books about samurai is Shadow of the Fox. What about this novel enchanted readers? Overall, it was the mixture of a fascinating world and great character cast.

Fans enthused over the enigmatic creatures, beautiful forests, cities and more that this book’s pages introduced to them. With vivid imagery and intricate world-building, this Japanese-inspired setting captured readers’ imaginations. Many said they were completely transported into Shadow of the Fox’s settings.

Others also mentioned how much they enjoyed the characters. They described them as likable, interesting and overall great protagonists to lead this fast-paced story.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, not even Shadow of the Fox. If readers didn’t enjoy this novel, what did they point to as reasons?

In general, they tended to say the story was predictable. Some of them said this was because the main characters came across as recognizable types (aloof warrior and naïve girl), while others said they thought the romance and quest developed and ended exactly as they expected.


The Disfavored Hero by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Description

Forced to betray her lord, a disgraced samurai fights to regain her honor.

In the fabled land of Naipon, there is no warrior more feared, no samurai more respected than the legendary Tomoe Gozen, whose twin blades can change the course of any battle.

After years of service to Lord Shigeno, she is about to renew her oath of loyalty when the sky darkens and a cry of rebellion comes from the hills. Possessed by an evil wizard, the peasants are marching against their master. Tomoe holds off the wave of pitchfork-wielding farmers for as long as she can. Finally, the battle overwhelms her, and the greatest samurai in Naipon falls dead.

She awakes in hell, on a slope lined with bloody corpses. After an eternity of fighting, she reaches the summit and finds herself in the chamber of a wizard who restores her to life. She is alive — but now she must do his bidding.

Her honor has been shattered, but Tomoe Gozen will do whatever it takes to win it back. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating3.78

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books about samurai is The Disfavored Hero. Described by fans as an exciting epic tale, this novel kept readers rushing through its pages because of its action-oriented, sword and sorcery plot and its strong historical and cultural accuracy.

In terms of the plot, fans described it as a fast-paced and emotional adventure, led by an intriguing protagonist. At the same time, they praised this book for its depiction of Bushido. Several mentioned that, as readers who enjoyed learning more about Japanese history, this story was a treat.

Negative Comments

What did critics say about The Disfavored Hero? For the most part, they tended to subscribe the book’s writing style as ‘detached’. Due to this, it was difficult for them to get emotionally involved in the story or connect with the protagonist, Tomoe Gozen.


Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Description

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace.

But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills.

When Takeo’s village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor — and to his own unimaginable destiny… 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.06

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

The final story on our list is more inspired by samurai than focused on them: Across the Nightingale Floor. In this lush novel, the main character trains to become an unbeatable assassin.

This book transported readers into its world through its beautiful, evocative atmosphere. As for its story, fans praised the book for being both heartfelt and brutal.

A coming of age novel, it features plenty of assassination training and lessons, which these readers loved. They also mentioned that while the main characters are teenagers, the storytelling and themes made it more of an adult-targeted fantasy novel than a Young Adult one.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t give Across the Nightingale Floor a high rating, they had two consistent comments.

The first was that they didn’t like the fact that the romance between the two protagonists started with love at first sight. As the story progressed, it didn’t develop much beyond that.

The second comment readers made was that they wanted an even stronger portrayal of Japanese culture. These readers came into the reading experience saying that they expected a historical fiction setting. Instead, they came across the supernatural elements and found it jarring.


5 Exciting Fantasy Books About Samurai or Inspired by Them

How Do These Fantasy Novels Compare?



5 Exciting Fantasy Books About Samurai or Inspired by Them


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