Hello and welcome to my profile. I'm Shimazu, or Shima for short. On December 29th, 2015, I became an administrator on The Laura Joh Rowland Wiki. If you have any questions regarding her novels or about the wiki in general, don't hesitate to contact me via my talk page.
Finding Rowland's Novels
I came across the Sano Ichiro series at the Junior/High school that I went to. They didn't have the entire series, but they did have The Fire Kimono. I had recently picked up an interest in Japan and any books set in that country automatically caught my attention. I picked it up and checked it out of the school's library that same day. Since the book had a list of previous novels in the series, I told my mother about it and she looked up another book for me to read, which happened to be The Cloud Pavilion. She got me that book and I've been a fan of Rowland ever since.
Sano Ichiro series
Book: The Fire Kimono
Reasoning: The Fire Kimono was my first book in this series, so I'm most likely biased because of that. I thought the challenge that Sano faced was very refreshing. After all, you don't see many mystery books that have the main character try to solve a murder that's over forty years old. Not only that, but Sano didn't have forensic science on his side, which made this task even harder. Even if the reveal of who did it wasn't all that surprising, I still have a soft spot for this particular entry.
Recurring Character Who is a Protagonist: Midori
Reasoning: One of the things I really like about Midori is her pluck and determination. I loved reading about Midori's growth from naive, sheltered, upper class girl to a strong and faithful wife who stands up to Hirata. While many women in that particular era (and even still today) were taught to just go with whatever their husband did, she didn't easily forgive or forget about Hirata's abandonment of her or their children. She helped her friends however she could and she did her best with what she had.
Recurring Character Who is an Antagonist: Yanagisawa Yoshisato
Reasoning: From the moment he set foot on screen, I fell in love with this character. He was the first person in the series who openly calls out Yanagisawa for his transgressions, in this case abandoning his own child and only making an appearance when he needed someone else to help in his schemes. The fact that he's Yanagisawa's own flesh and blood just makes Yoshisato's rejection all the more painful. I just loved reading about him and am rather sad that he didn't show up very much in the finale. I do wish that he had been introduced earlier, or had gotten an expanded roll. I realize there isn't anything that can be done about that, but I can dream.
Book: The Snow Empress
Reasoning: Even if I wasn't able to figure out whodunit the first time around, upon rereading it, it's pretty obvious who the murderer is. While it was a nice twist that the murderer had help, that doesn't take away the fact that they're easy to spot. Compared to the previous books and how they kept you guessing until the reveal, it's kind of a let down. I also dislike Reiko's attitude in this one. I understand her being upset over her child's disappearance and her utter heartbreak when she believes Masahiro to be dead. However, I do have an issue with her completely forgetting that she has an infant daughter back at home! She admits favoritism in regards to Masahiro, just because he was born first. There are other issues I have with the book, but those are my two major reasons.
Recurring Character Who is a Protagonist: Hirata
Reasoning: I don't hate Hirata. I just don't agree with some of the things he does throughout the series, even if I can understand why he did them. Another thing I don't particularly care for is his segments, when the point of view switches to him and what he's doing. He isn't an interesting character to read about. In comparison, I don't mind reading Yanagisawa's portions because, even though I hate him, he stirs enough emotion in me to feel something. Hirata on the other hand? He's just some normal guy. (And, yes, this applies even after he goes through martial arts training). Compared to the other characters, he's rather... one note, as it were. What's his defining character trait? His complete loyalty to Sano. That's kinda it. It's true that there are other people he thinks about, it's just that his loyalty to Sano is his main motivation. That's fine and I understand why that's the case, but that doesn't make for a very compelling character to me.
Recurring Character Who is an Antagonist: Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu
Reasoning: It should be fairly obvious as to why I don't like this character. He's essentially coal and garbage wrapped into a handsome package. Just because he was horrifically abused in the past doesn't lesson what he did throughout the series. His crimes were too innumerable for me to even consider it. I will admit he can be fun to read about. That's about it, though.
I gotta be honest, I kinda forget that these two novels exist. And I have both of them in my personal library! They're just not as interesting as the other novels. They're serviceable, and that's really all there is to it.
Oh, this series... I don't hate it, but these novels do contain some of Rowland's worst writing. They're not horrible, but they could've benefited from a few (dare I say several) rewrites. It feels like the main characters stumble across the true murderer in spite of themselves, not because they actually deduce who it was.