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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Emperor of the Eight Islands: The Tale of Shikanoko, Book 1

1. Lian Hearn began writing The Tale of Shikanoko after a visit to Iwate, Japan, where she saw young men rehearsing dances for festivals --- the oni sword dances and the deer dances. “The thing that made the greatest impression on me,” she recalls, “was the resonance of a vanished world, where the lives of people and animals were more closely entwined and where the supernatural was an accepted element of life.” How did Book 1 affect your perception of the natural world? Are the novel’s supernatural creatures morally superior to humanity?

2. How did you react to the scheme proposed by Kiyomasa, requiring Lady Tama to leave Masachika and become Kiyoyori’s wife? Was there a better alternative, or is love a weakness that should be overlooked when war is looming? Are the characters’ situations driven primarily by fate or by choice?

3. What are the advantages and vulnerabilities of being a woman in the society of EMPEROR OF THE EIGHT ISLANDS? How does Tama’s strength compare to that of Aki, the Autumn Princess? Would you want to have Lady Tora’s powers of enchantment?

4. Taro offers to take Kiyoyori’s place when they face the Judge of Hell. How are roles defined for the servant class? What spurs their loyalty?

5. Discuss the scene in which Sesshin loses his sight. What does his story illustrate about vision being spiritual as well as physical?

6. If you had been Aki, how would you have responded to Lady Shinmei’in (Yoshi’s mother), who says she and her husband and her son should die together? What do you predict for Yoshi’s future? How do they do that? And why?

Emperor of the Eight Islands: The Tale of Shikanoko, Book 1
by Lian Hearn

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals
  • ISBN-10: 0374536317
  • ISBN-13: 9780374536312