I would like to thank Anconyte Books for providing me with this novel in exchange for an honest review. What makes Poison River such an intriguing and overwhelmingly enjoyable debut novel by Joshua Reynolds is the fact that this novel combines a mystery plot in a feudal Japanese type setting. I know what you are thinking as I was shocked too when I first laid eyes on the description. If I am being honest, I didn’t think that these two elements would work as most stories revolving around feudal Japan involve war, assassins’, and shogun politics. These elements are present to varying degrees but the story just moves so smoothly and I was quite surprise at the level of enjoyment Poison River gave me.
Poison River takes place in the fantastical world of the Legends of the Five Rings where multiple stories are written in this same universe. This is very similar to the Forgotten Realms or Dungeons and Dragons worlds. Daidoji Shin is not your typical detective or Sherlock Holmes type protagonist to say the least. He has a bad habit of getting into trouble, drinking, and gambling in the darkest parts of Rich Frog and he often has to rely on the skills and loyalty of his sidekick Hiramori Kasami to get him out of trouble. Kasami’s skills with a blade are unmatched and she is only protecting Shin as a favor that no harm will come to him, but her patience is waring thin. No one can deny Shins intelligent and cerebral sense to find clues where nobody else will look. When a case of poisoned rice threatens the brittle peace between the competing clans, the Imperial Governor drags Shin from his indolence and orders him to find the culprit. Despite himself, Shin uncovers an intriguing conspiracy involving more than just dead rats. A murder with no body and a missing actress present a distraction that could finally make Shin put in a full day’s work, and maybe even save the city from tearing itself apart.
Apart from the murder mystery needed to be solved, the story also tells us of the political and internal fighting the several clans have for each other. The Imperial Governor has to maneuver his pieces in solving the murder to not offend anybody. This takes place mostly in the background but I found the clans tension with each other to be very interesting. Shin and Kasami’s relationship or partnership is the engine that moves Poison River into a fun story for me. While Shin is working methodically and deliberately towards solving the case, he can’t himself but to get sidetracked in his endeavors. Kasami feels conflicted throughout most of the novel between her loyalty to her duty and the friendship she has for Shin. One of these will have to give and the story will lead you on a wild ride. Joshua Reynolds writing style is very enjoyable with plenty of quips and interesting twists along the way. I was also given another story in the Legend of the Five Rings world titles Curse of Honor and I am very much looking forward to more entries in this world.
For me personally, I am declaring 2021 to be the year of indie author and smaller publishers on my blog. There hard work and time deserves to be recognized and shared with the larger SFF community. If you are reading this post and are looking for a new years resolution as far as books are concerned, read more indie authors. Poison River is a great place to start and count me in for all future books in this world!