Tiger Lily, by K. Bird Lincoln, is the story of a young adult woman, Lily of the Valley, set in a culture much like ancient Japan. The culture is similar enough to Japan’s to fool all but the astute non-native, but the author does give a caveat up front.
Lily of the Valley was born in the year of the tiger, to a father who is the chef for the local nobility, and a mother who was a Jinto priestess. The practice of Jinto has been outlawed in favor of Bhudism, and Lily’s mother mysteriously disappeared many years ago.
Lily is left behind as the woman of the house, cooking and cleaning for her father and three siblings, that is, whenever she is not called to work in the rice paddy. But Lily is rebellious and free-spirited. This causes her to disappear into the wilderness at times.
The setting is one of civil war, with different warlords trying to consolidate power and gain favor with the Emperor. The battles comes to Lily’s village in the form of Jinto-weilding fox warriors. Lily inherited (or learned) some of the Jinto ways from her mother, and manages to accidentally prevent the local prince from being killed. This causes her to come into the prince’s favor, and that relationship drives the rest of the story.
Overall, this is an enjoyable and entertaining tale that I read in ebook form over the course of a couple of weeks. Considerable planning and thought went into the creation of the milieu, and that shows. Although this is specifically the tale of one conflict in the civil war, and the relationship of Lily with the prince, the world leaves countless opportunities for further exploration and story-telling.
On the positive side, Lincoln has created a compelling cast of characters, and Lily perhaps gains more sympathy from the readers than she has for herself. This keeps the pages turning. On the negative side, several situations and characters with enormous potential were left on the table and not used at all. That the author left these details unexplored screams for a sequel, if only to make use of material that seems arbitrary in this book. A well-executed sequel has the potential to tie these ends together.
Lincoln’s style is colorful and enjoyable. Her action scenes flow without getting bogged with minutia. Her descriptions are poetry, where minutia matters and is handled well. The characters all have personality, nothing cardboard about them. The story itself is larger than can be told in a single volume, but the portion of the story Lincoln chose to tell does fit nicely into the size volume she selected–not under-told, nor over-told. The refreshing change from typical European culture fantasy made the book that much more enjoyable.
Clicking the cover image will take you to the book’s Amazon page.
4 of 5 stars