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Solomon Kane: The Banquet of Souls review

eBook by Steven Savile

Cover by Guillem H. Pongiluppi 

Illustrations by Patrick Zircher 

From Titan Books and Heroic Signatures

Spoilers! Spoilers! 

A storm approaches, since there is no way around it, the captain of the ship decides to go right through it.
Solomon Kane is sporting his slouch hat, rapier, and heavy pistols, he starts praying.
Solomon tells the Captain that this is a mistake.
Young Weasel goes overboard.
Kane binds himself to the mainmast with his belt.
The ship is torn apart by the raging sea.

Kane wakes on a beach, his belt broken, a Japanese girl picks his pockets, Kane grabs her and asks where he's landed.

Her brother tells Kane that he is in Odawara (on the island of Honshū. South of Tokyo), the Hotu clan's lands, next to Hideyoshi territory.

Kane is brought to the Hotu settlement and fortress. He eats, sleeps and cleans himself.

Kane walks through the town around the fort, he spies a marketplace, workshops, people practicing Karate and Kenjutsu.

Kane spots warding sigils, a girl, Kiode Hotu, explains that the sigil with the demonic face represents the possessed daimyō (feudal lord), Chiba Hideyoshi (Chiba takes his name from Toyotomi Hideyoshi).

Kiode's father, Tanaka Hotu and Chiba were blood brothers, but are now mortal enemies.

Kiode's brother Toda, like his father Tanaka, refuses to surrender to Chiba.

Kiode shows Kane a chaya (a teahouse), a nishikigoi pond, the cherry blossom trees. She talks about the creation of her father's katana sword and the ceremony of Toro Nagashi (floating lanterns).

Kane starts exercising again, he catches Kiode bathing and sees that she has a tattoo of a demon on her back.

Kiode confirms that tattoo artist Besshou did indeed tattoo everyone with 2 tattoos, one pledging loyalty and the other a demon ward.

Kiode finds for Kane a Bachiatari (cursed) patrol... and it is lead by the possessed Chiba who is wearing an eboshi cap... surrounded by flies. 
Kiode calls Chiba's entranced masked warriors the Noppera-Bō (faceless ones).  

Young Chiba Hideyoshi went into a cave and emerged changed, he rebelled against his uncle Ukita to become daimyō, executed those loyal to his uncle and assassinated Ukita.

Kiode brings Kane to the cave, it grants access to a vast network of passageways under Odawara, one leads to her father's chamber inside the fortress, another reaches the Hideyoshi heartland.

Kane goes back to the beach, finds the mast that saved his life, he makes a Crucifix out of it, brings it to his room, prays to God for guidance and turns the Crucifix into a Crucifix-stake.

Chiba and his faceless ones pour out of the cave and start slaughtering the Hotu. Chiba is enraptured.

Kane finds Kiode's brother Toda, dead. 
Kane starts killing samurais with his pistols.

The next morning, Kane cannot locate Kiode.
The fortress still hasn't been breached but the settlement is in ruins.  
Tanaka, the Hotu daimyō offers a prayer to each of his fallen subjects.
Kane enters the underground tunnels via Tanaka's secret entrance.
Kane finds the pit the entity (that took over Chiba) crawled out of. 
Kane is besieged by a narcotic fog, he sees and hears demonic illusions, he fires at them twice and collapses.

Kane wakes up in Chiba's throne room.
Chiba is surrounded by dead bodies, he is consuming the souls of the captured Hotu.
Chiba kills a serving maid.
To cast the demon out, Kane plunges his Crucifix-stake multiple times into the daimyō's rotting flesh.
The surrounding flies flee into Chiba's wounds. 
The demon is exorcised, Chiba dies and the curse over the whole land is lifted.
Kane finds Kiode among the dead.
Kane brings back Kiode's body to Tanaka. 
To keep the spirit of his daughter alive, Tanaka gives Kiode's green sash to Kane. 

What I did like:

Kane's shimmering green silk sash of Oriental workmanship gets an origin story. 

Kane finally gets to visit Japan. "Red Seas", way back in 1982 (The Savage Sword Of Conan (1974) #83) wanted to send Kane to Japan. It never happened.

A yōkai (strange apparition) is mentioned.

Nightingale floors are mentioned.

Kane is overtraining, which explains his wiry physique.

Steven also wrote two excellent Sláine novels (Sláine the Exile + Sláine the Defiler). They were even translated into French.

What I did not like:

Was the demon Beelzebub? The entity never identifies itself.

The cat-headed ju-ju stave is sadly MIA. 

Kane doesn't mention his beloved Bess.

Kane doesn't learn Japanese, doesn't try martial arts and never uses a katana sword.

After almost drowning, Kane still has his hat, dirk and both of his flintlock pistols? Ridiculous! 

The dire wolf was found in 1854, that's over 200 years after Kane.

I give it an 8/10. If you're looking for a gastronomical adventure you'll be disappointed, but if you're into feudal Japan and Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D, then you'll be pleased with this well researched tale set in the Azuchi–Momoyama period. Now we need Conan stories by Steven Savile!

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