Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt
Allegiance is a provocative historical thriller set against the backdrop of World War II and Japanese internment. After Columbia law student Caswell “Cash” Harrison fails his military physical, he is offered the opportunity to clerk for Justice Hugo Black. He and a fellow clerk stumble on a conspiracy to steer the direction of the Court. But, when his friend ends up dead, Cash begins a dangerous mission that leads him from the hallowed marble palace of the Supreme Court to the Department of Justice and an internment camp in California. Being a Japanese American attorney, the premise of this novel definitely intrigued me but it was the excellent writing and narrative that had me struggling to put this book down. The journey that the protagonist, Cash, goes through from young, naïve law clerk to principled seeker of justice is at the heart of what makes this novel laudable.
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
A steampunk, fantasy novel set in feudal Japan? Yes, please. However, “Stormdancer” is so much more than that. There are demons, griffins and a protagonist who can hear animals’ thoughts. It also has all the makings of a good dystopian novel: a tyrannical leader, religious zealots, haves and have nots and the seeds of rebellion. I particularly came to like the main character, Yukiko. Although there is a a love triangle that I did not feel was entirely necessary, Yukiko is a good example of a strong heroine who confronts demons both inwardly and outwardly. Mr. Kristoff’s writing has not-so-subtle environmentalist and political overtones but he makes his points without arrogance and without distracting from the storyline. His writing also contains very vivid imagery which helps convey the rich detail of his world and deepens the emotional impact of the story. If you are going to read only one Japanese steampunk novel, make sure it’s this one!