Over the Mountain of the Moon

Title: Over the Mountain of the Moon (A tale of a samurai consort)
Author: Reiko Morgan
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Over the Mountain of the Moon: A Tale of a Samurai Consort
Genre: Historical m/m
Length: Novel (297 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: This story is a thrilling, adventourous quest through medieval Japan and at the same time a sensual, passionate love story between a noble samurai and his lionhearted young consort.

This review contains what might be considered spoilers

The Blurb: Tetsuya, a young male courtesan, is living a life of relative safety until an unknown samurai called Jin arrives on his doorstep, bringing passion and death. Awakened to the strange paths of destiny, Tetsuya chooses to leave the only place he has ever known to follow a samurai who is on a quest for vengeance. Their heels dogged at every turn by paid assassins, Tetsuya and Jin learn to trust each other as they discover hidden truths which may get them killed before their love has a chance to redeem them both.

The Review: Japan is at the cusp of the samurai era, ruled by feudal lords. Peasant men aren’t worthy beyond their ability to work and women are even worse off, regarded as barely more than chattel, their only status coming from their husbands or fathers. A woman or a child on their own can hardly survive in those days. Tetsuya, cast adrift by his father at the age of twelve, knows this from personal experience. Yet, after being raped almost to death by a group of men, Tetsuya is lucky enough to meet reception with a house of pleasure. He lives there in relative comfort and even an illusion of self-determination, since he’s so much sought after for his beauty and his lovemaking skills that he can have his pick of who he gives his body to.

One day when Tetsuya is grocery shopping he comes across a drunken warrior who is just about violating a girl. Without hesitating, Tetsuya attacks in order to protect the girl. He succeds, only to find himself at the villain’s sword tip, but then he is rescued himself by a strange samurai who impresses him deeply. Unable to forget his mysterious savior, Tetsuya is pleased to find him among the evening clientele of his inn, but the stranger disappears without a word. Disappointed and melancholic, Tetsuya wanders along the shores of the inn’s hot springs later, only to witness his fascinating stranger fighting and killing two attackers. When a new danger in the form of the magistrate’s soldiers approach, Tetsuya’s quick thinking saves the stranger’s life. Hiding the stranger in the inn leads to the most intense night of lovemaking Tetsuya has ever experienced in his life. Although Tetsuya is convinced there was more than sex to that night, and even though the strange samurai hints at feeling the same, he nevertheless leaves in the morning, after another failed attack at his life. Left alone with a bloody dead body, devastated and heartbroken, Tetsuya decides that his life isn’t worth living anymore without his samurai and sets about following him no matter where.

Jin, on a revenge campaign for his murdered teacher, has fallen for the beautiful, brave young courtesan on the spot. Yet, he thinks he can’t weigh himself down with a pampered boy, much less expose such a delicate being to the dangers of his wandering life. So he isn’t overly pleased at first when he finds Tetsuya halfway frozen to death and wet through on his virtual doorstep. Soon, though, Jin learns there’s more to Tetsuya than meets the eye, and his love and devotion for his young companion grow to a point where he can’t think of a life without him anymore.

This was a beautiful and very emotional story, a romance in the best sense of the word.  I’m normally not a big fan of insta-love, but I didn’t mind it much here because I found it fitting. Although the heroes fell in love practically on first sight, it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows for them afterwards; they had to work hard for their happiness.  For one, there were many adverse circumstances to overcome, attempts at their lives, injuries, sickness, rough streets and bad weather, torture, separation, and a society that condemned their love. For another, there were the inner obstacles, which were almost harder for them, since both were very much set in the ways of their mutual social classes.
I don’t know much about ancient Japan, but for all I know, social boundaries were hard to overcome then and there. Tetsuya, in particular, had the idea of self-sacrifice internalized to a point where he allowed himself caged into Jin’s golden cage, profoundly unhappy and yet convinced he had to submit completely to his lover’s wishes. Jin, on the other hand, had firsthand proof of Tetsuya’s resilience and inner strength – Tetsuya saved Jin’s life more than once, after all. Yet, Jin was so set in his role as protector and nurturer that he didn’t realize how much his overbearing threatened to smother Tetsuya beyond recognizability until it was almost too late.
This inner conflict and the resulting inner growth both heroes had to go through went a long way to create a distinctive “Japanese” feeling for me. It also went along very well with the worldbuilding.
Again, I can’t say much about historical accuracy. The author placed a foreword to the story where time and setting are explained, and the story fit perfectly to this, so I could just go with the flow and enjoy the author’s skill at painting pictures of her world with words like this:

“When the large silver globe of the full moon crested the darkness of the imposing mountain, the scene changed in front of Tetsuya’s eyes as if somehow another world had come to life. The snow lying silently on the sloping mountainside refl ected the soft moonlight from its depths. The light sparkled and danced with a life of its own, making the shadowed valley an ocean,  lighted with  silvery blue.”

In the end, though, despite all the exotic setting, the vivid fighting scenes and the passionate lovemaking, it all came down to the old truth that nothing should be taken for granted and every love worth it’s name is worth fighting for. Over the Mountain of the Moon is a beautiful story that transported me far out of my everyday life, and I can heartily recommend it to everyone who wants to escape reality for some very enjoyable hours.


Last but not least the cover deserves a mentioning. Deana C. Jamroz did a wonderful job in portraying Tetsuya at his strongest and most desperate moment, and the cover fits the story perfectly.
*** This story contains scenes of violence and bloodshedding which may be offensive to some readers.  Although child abuse/ rape is hinted at, neither is depicted on-page. ***

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

24 comments

  • Feliz
    Thank you so much for this wonderful review. I don’t read many books set in this era or culture but you captured the essence of both, as well as the characters.

    Kate Cotoner wrote another wonderful book set in Asia – China – Fall of a State which I would definitely recommend. Val reviewed it.

    I’m glad my rec. that you take a look at this book worked out. 🙂

    Reply
    • Wave,

      there was a time when I was quite obsessed with ancient Asia (Richard Chamberlain in “Shogun”, remember?)but this faded quickly since I couldn’t get my head around this concept of disregard for the individual which always seemed very “Asian” to me. Yet, I liked this story since I found it was a perfect mix of the exotic and the familiar.
      I’ve already heard good things about “Fall of the State”, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the rec.

      Reply
      • Hey Feliz, I just finished reading it 🙂 A good read as you said, I liked it a lot! I agree about the insta-love, it was a bit too fast but the author made it work with the setting and the situation.

        From what I read, I’m guessing the book is set in the later part of the Sengoku era, so there are some historical inaccuracies but very minor ones. Tetsuya was a bit too weepy for my taste at times but I liked the way their class differences were shown by the way Jin saw Tetsuya and vice versa, especially after they arrived at the castle and Tetsuya started to feel trapped. I also liked Lady Kagara and the relationship that grew between her and Tetsuya.

        And about the ending, which GR mentioned above – I was fine with it, too. Jin will have to marry and have a son, no doubt about it, but he’s reassured Tetsuya that he’ll be the one he loves. There are so many historical instances of high ranking gay samurai (and shoguns) who did their duty and had kids (though you have to feel sorry for their wives/concubines!) while keeping long-term male lovers by their sides. So I thought this story did a great job in sticking with the historical basis of m/m relationships of this time.

        Thanks again for the review!

        Reply
        • Leslie,

          thank YOU for the feedback and for the background info. As I said, I have no idea about Japanese history, so I didn’t notice any inaccuracies, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have cared if I did.

          Reply
  • What a great review, Feliz! I have been sitting on the fence about this one, not quite sure if I would like it or not. Thanks for giving me some more information than the blurb did, because I’m very excited about reading this story now. It sounds wonderful 🙂

    Reply
  • Feliz- wonderful review! esp with this description ” despite all the exotic setting, the vivid fighting scenes and the passionate lovemaking, it all came down to the old truth that nothing should be taken for granted and every love worth it’s name is worth fighting for.” I’m sold – Thx

    Reply
  • Wonderful review, Feliz, thank you. 🙂

    I’ve had this in my TBR already but your review gives me a good feeling and I’m looking forward to reading this.

    ETA: Ohgod, the “gives me a good feeling” sounds so totally like “German English”. *lol* *embarrassed*

    Reply
  • Wow,great review Feliz. Yet another book on my TBR list that I would have missed on my own. Thanks for opening my eyes to undiscovered places!

    Thanks Feliz!

    Reply
    • you’re welcome Reggie; actually you have to thank Wave who pointed me towards this book.
      japanese settings are actually not my cup of tea, but I liked this very much. Think I’ll look at more Japan-set books in the future.

      Reply
  • Your description is great: this is a lovely and atmospheric novel, with lots of adventure (and yeah, that cover? *drool*…)
    I was a trifle annoyed about the ending, as I felt that questions were raised and then not settled about both heroes’ futures.
    (And I would argue – gently – that Tetsuya’s having been raped is dramatic revelation, so mentioning it is a bit of a spoiler).

    Reply
    • Hi GR,

      thank you for your thoughts. I didn’t find the end annoying; on the contrary, I thought the openness fitting and hopeful. A matter of personal taste, I guess.

      Also thank you for your notification; I’ll put in a spoiler warning.

      Reply
    • GR
      Because many readers are upset about rapes in M/M romances, (myself included) we have to include this information whenever it occurs in a story. (see my post on Friday about Extreme M/M).

      Reply

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