Flying Fish by Sedonia Guillone
Length: Novella / 25,100 words / $4.99
In seventeenth century Japan, during the golden age of samurai and of the Kabuki theater, young actors known as "flying fish" traveled the countryside, performing for audiences by day and giving their bodies to their samurai patrons at night.
Genji Sakura is one such flying fish, yet he dreams of the day he’ll find the man he can give his heart to and leave the loneliness of his itinerant life behind. Though he loves theater, he doesn’t love every part of his profession, especially some of the patrons. So when a handsome ronin, or masterless samurai, comes upon him stealing some solitude for a bath in a hot spring and their encounter turns passionate and profoundly erotic, Genji’s surprised and delighted.
Daisuke Minamoto’s past fills his life with a bitterness that grips his soul and makes him dangerous. Yet his passion takes him when he spies on a graceful young man bathing naked in a hot spring. He has always loved women but he can’t deny the call of his heart or his baser interests.
After an afternoon of sexual bliss, his heart and soul are tormented and torn. Keeping this miraculous lover will require giving up the one thing that has kept him alive for years: his hatred for the lord who murdered his wife. If he loves another, how will he go on and who will he become?
A sweet and gentle love story set in a unique historical culture and setting. There are a few minor qualms with the story, but the wonderful characters and real flavor given to the setting elevate this tale into something different and quite enjoyable. Here a young man, Genji, has been raised in the theatre after sold as a slave. The bargain he has made with the manager of the traveling theatre group is that in exchange for performing on stage, Genji will act as a prostitute for lusty samurai after the show. One day Genji stumbles upon a bitter, angry samurai and both their lives change.
The characters are well drawn and developed from the beginning and although there is a lot of sex between the two, the gentle nature and emotion involved always deepens the relationship. Genji is a sweet and loving young man even as he struggles with the emotional toll his life has taken. He is jaded and lost, still very young in many ways as he looks to Daisuke for guidance and support. Genji is not a typical weak character even though he is described in almost feminine terms. His beauty, demeanor, and dress are often described as that of a woman. Whether this is to help explain Daisuke’s feelings or to reinforce the traditional dynamic is unclear, but for all the feminine descriptions Genji is a man with courage and strength of will.
Just as Genji is more of the nurturer in the relationship, Daisuke is the masculine provider in the relationship. His change from embittered, angry man to loving, loyal subject is somewhat fast – the story happens over the course of weeks. Considering Daisuke has been carrying his hatred and need for revenge for over five years, the short time to letting that go does create a small problem. However, the development of an emotional connection between Daisuke and Genji given the constraints of the novella does help. Daisuke’s gentle and tender care of Genji is wonderful to watch unfolding as his desire and feelings for the young man are never tainted by concern over Genji’s gender.
The atmosphere of the culture and time is wonderfully done. The use of terminology and descriptions create a beautiful setting and gives descriptions for the words used through context so the reader isn’t lost in unfamiliar terms. This helps maintain the feeling of the historical time even as the issues raised are timeless. There are a few writing problems in that the point of view switches between Genji and Daisuke almost arbitrarily and not always at the best points. Genji’s negative reactions to Daisuke’s protection towards the end of the story are only shown through Daisuke’s point of view, which isolates Genji and cuts the reader off from understanding his choices and actions. It would have been nice to see from Genji’s perspective his thoughts and feelings over the sudden changes. There are a few other examples where the point of view changes are awkward and clumsy instead of seamless, but these are minor qualms.
Overall, this is a lovely story with a very historical and culture atmosphere, lending beautifully to the theme and characters. Although the author claims to have taken some leeway with the time period and other aspects, since I’m not familiar with that culture, it didn’t detract any enjoyment. This novella is an easy and luxurious read with good pacing and very romantic overtones. Fans of the genre will want to experience this unique offering.
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