Sword Fighting in The Emperor of Nihon-Ja | Spoiler-Free Review

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

5 Star Rating System 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Middle-Grade, Adventure
Author: John Flanagan
Published: November 2010
Publisher: Random House Australia
Pages: 487 {paperback}

Review on Goodreads

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

Ranger’s Apprentice never fails to please. I thoroughly enjoyed this story just like I thoroughly enjoyed the previous nine books. I was nervous going into it as it had been quite a while since I’d read the previous book: I thought I wouldn’t be able to remember what was going on. But everything fell into place with ease and the action and excitement were addictive to read!

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

This is the tenth story in the Ranger’s Apprentice series and just like most of the other books, you could (if you really wanted to) read this by itself. It’s a story independent of all the other ones with the character’s relationship being the main thing tying it all together.

In this story, we have a split storyline between Will and Horace. Horace finds a diplomatic mission in Nihon-Ja going wrong quickly as a usurper to the throne tries to get rid of the Emperor, Shigeru. There’s a beautiful friendship that forms between Shigeru and Horace and it was an interesting take on an Asian-inspired setting within the Ranger’s Apprentice world.

Will is with Halt, as expected, and also with Alyss. They’re on their own diplomatic mission, something to do with trading I believe. But Evanlyn brings a message to them that Horace has gone missing and the four of them are quick to organise a rescue party to go in search of their friend.

The story then swaps between Horace’s valiant attempt to protect Emperor Shigeru from the usurper, Arisaka, and the other four’s journey to track Horace down and bring re-enforcements. I really enjoyed how many subtle elements from previous books Flanagan used in this. We have a Skandian crew helping our main characters sail to the lands of Nihon-Ja as well as an Aridi character from a couple of books previous. Not to mention the on-going rivalry between Alyss and Evanlyn as they jealously protect their men.

What Made This Action-Packed and Fun

The adventure to be had in every Ranger’s Apprentice book is always great but I really loved this one in particular. We have a really big scope when it comes to the story and the characters are covering a lot of ground. But there is a time pressure in this story for the Emperor to fight and stand against Arisaka before Arisaka brings in re-enforcements that would fatally out-number Shigeru’s own forces.

The important role that Horace plays in leading the Emperor to safety to a near-mythical fortress in the mountains was really exciting. It means we get a good story about this group making their way through tough terrain and stopping to make friends and find allies at Kikori towns (villagers/peasants).

This is doubled with the adventure of Will, Halt, Evanlyn and Alyss trying to make their way to Horace by tracking him down and avoiding the unwanted eye of Arisaka’s men. But the best part about this story is the fighting. If you’re craving a really good fight there are some seriously satisfying battles to be had in this book.

The skills that all of the characters have learnt so far throughout this series really come to the fore in this book. Will is able to make Halt proud by training an army of his own, Evanlyn’s skill with her slingshot has seriously improved, and Alyss is as amazing as always.

Of course, Horace is incredible. I’ve loved following how much Horace grows up in this series, and I think he’s probably the character with the biggest character arc. It’s really enjoyable to see and he does an amazing job of basically being a general for Shigeru’s interesting army.


I loved this! No surprises there. I’ll be so sad once I finish the end of this series because it’s just so enjoyable. This series holds a special place in my heart because I’ve been reading it slowly over the course of what must be nearly ten years now. I can only hope that Netflix picks this up and does a TV series remake of this to a quality surely deserved by such a well-loved middle-grade fiction series!

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Happy reading!

~~ Kirstie ~~


2 thoughts on “Sword Fighting in The Emperor of Nihon-Ja | Spoiler-Free Review

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