Toru: Wayfarer Returns
by Stephanie R. Sorensen
GENRE: Historical Steampunk Fiction
A nation encircled by enemies
A noblewoman with everything to lose
A fisherman with everything to prove and a nation to save.
In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial values decay. Foreign barbarians circle the island nation’s closed borders like vultures.
Tōru, a shipwrecked young fisherman rescued by traders and taken to America, defies the Shogun’s ban on returning to Japan, determined to save his homeland from foreign invasion. Can he rouse his countrymen in time? Or will the cruel Shogun carry out his vow to execute all who set foot in Japan after traveling abroad? Armed only with his will, a few books, dirigible plans and dangerous ideas, Tōru must transform the Emperor’s realm before the Black Ships come.
“No, daughter. You are not coming with us.” The daimyō looked down at his daughter’s norimono palanquin.
She signaled for her bearers to lift her up.
They looked to her father for instruction.
“No!” he bellowed, but his voice bore hints of the frustration of a man who knows he is beaten before the battle even begins.
She signaled once again for her bearers to lift her up. Caught between their implacable mistress and her fierce father, the men looked miserable.
“This is no journey for a woman. We will be gone a week. We have to travel through hostile territory. It is the mud season. There are bandits on the road. We have to move swiftly. Your mother would not approve.” Reasons poured out of the daimyō, endless reasons, all of them quite reasonable, at louder and louder volume.
His daughter made no answer. She merely motioned for the third time for her bearers to lift her up.
“Toranosuke! I command you, stay here!”
At her nickname, the girl finally popped her head outside the norimono in a most unladylike manner. She beamed at her father in joyful triumph, confident now in her victory. “Hai! O-tō-sama! I will stay here! For one hour. To make you happy. And then I will follow you, dressed as a man, riding on a horse, wearing your old hakama. If I obey you and stay here for that hour, you will force me to face the mud and the bandits alone. Surely it is better for me to travel under your protection. You cannot make me stay here. And I will follow you, Father. You know I will.”
Stephanie is a writer based in the Victorian mining town of Leadville, Colorado, where she lives at 10,251 feet with her husband, five chickens, two bantam English game hens and one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. After a former life in big cities-New York City, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Boston, Mexico City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Santa Fe-she now enjoys the birdsong and quiet writing time she finds in Leadville. Her first novel draws on her experience living and working in Japan; her next historical novel is set in Mexico where she also lived for several years. As a Leadville local, she likes her Victorian attire spiced with a little neo-Victorian futurism and the biggest bustle possible.
Recognition for "Toru: Wayfarer Returns"
-- Finalist, Fantasy category, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
-- Bronze Medal Award, Multicultural Fiction category, 2016 eLit Book Awards