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. ***