Read Fudoki by Kij Johnson Online


Enter the world of Kagaya-hime, a sometime woman warrior, occasional philosopher, and reluctant confidante to noblemen--who may or may not be a figment of the imagination of an aging empress who is embarking on the last journey of her life, setting aside the trappings of court life and reminiscing on the paths that lead her to death.For she is a being who started her journEnter the world of Kagaya-hime, a sometime woman warrior, occasional philosopher, and reluctant confidante to noblemen--who may or may not be a figment of the imagination of an aging empress who is embarking on the last journey of her life, setting aside the trappings of court life and reminiscing on the paths that lead her to death.For she is a being who started her journey on the kami, the spirit road, as a humble tortoiseshell feline. Her family was destroyed by a fire that decimated most of the Imperial city, and this loss renders her taleless, the only one left alive to pass on such stories as The Cat Born the Year the Star Fell, The Cat with a Litter of Ten, and The Fire-Tailed Cat. Without her fudoki--self and soul and home and shrine--she alone cannot keep the power of her clan together. And she cannot join another fudoki, because although she might be able to win a place within another clan, to do so would mean that she would cease to be herself.So a small cat begins an extraordinary journey. Along the way she will attract the attention of old and ancient powers. Gods who are curious about this creature newly come to Japan's shores, and who choose to give the tortoiseshell a human shape....

Title : Fudoki
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780765303912
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 316 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Fudoki Reviews

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2019-04-22 06:41

    How have so few people read this book? I will have to pimp it all over Goodreads now because Fudoki is simply lovely.This book is two stories rolled into one. In 12th century Japan, Harueme, an elderly princess, sits down to write a story that's just itching to get out: of a cat who's turned into a woman and a warrior and has the adventures Harueme never had. Harueme's memoirs intertwine with the story of the cat, without real boundaries between the two. This might be best described as historical fiction, since the fantasy elements are all in the cat's tale and the cat probably doesn't exist, but there's enough ambiguity that it works well as historical fantasy too.This was an unusual reading experience for me. I initially read the first few pages, decided it wasn't the thing for me at the moment, and set it aside, but then found myself thinking about it. And that's the way this book works. There's nothing flashy or in-your-face about it; it draws you in subtly, plays on your emotions without your realizing it, and you slowly come to realize just how good it is. I'm used to reading books through in a mad rush these days, but this is one that demands you slow down and read a little bit at a time. "Calming" is a good way to describe it.The stories of both the princess and the cat are compelling, and the character development is quite good, especially with Harueme (the cat-woman is simpler, as cats are, and even in human form her personality resembles that of a cat). Harueme lives in a world of women, and her relationship with her attendant and best friend, Shigeko, is well-done. The writing is also good, and genuinely reads like the voice of an older woman who's learned a lot about life (rather than a younger author trying to sound wise and being trite instead). To quote an example that encapsulates Harueme's outlook on life, and made me smile (background: her uncle and cousin are upset about her rejection of a suitor):"I knew they could not see me well through the screens, so I learned to slip a small notebook into my sleeve, to have something to read during these visits: if they had nothing useful to say, I saw little reason to attend carefully. I actually read all the way through the Diamond Sutra in this fashion, which I am sure did more for my soul than any remorse they might have hoped to engender."Not flashy, but full of thought and humanity. And it also brings me to my last point, which is the setting. Johnson isn't Japanese, but you might not realize from the text; the book is clearly well-researched but the details stay in the background, subtly fleshing it out as needed. The setting feels three-dimensional, and never exoticized. The mythology is interesting and fits very well into the story; I knew I was hooked from the moment the cat encounters a dead woman's ghost trying to shake her body into wakefulness.I'm not quite prepared to give 5 stars--maybe I need a little more flash, the kind of book that will bowl you over--but I am prepared to say that Fudoki is excellent. This is exactly the sort of thing I like--historical fantasy with a non-western setting, focusing on women and their relationships, and with cats--but I think it will appeal to a wider audience too. Now on to Johnson's other book....

  • Algernon
    2019-04-28 08:49

    Cats are too fierce for gods; they came godless from Korea many tens of years ago, and they worship no one. This is good, for they are free in ways men are not; but this is bad, because they are utterly alone in the world. Fudoki is the story of a cat, told by a princess trapped in her rooms by old age, tradition and ill health. But like any great story, it is much more than the surface detail. It is about freedom and courage, love and friendship, conflict and poetry. Set in 11th Century Japan, at the height of the Heian period that was famous for the rigid formalities of court life, for the rise of the military caste, for the writing of classic monogatari epics, for the rise of Buddhist and Chinese influence on the Japanese culture. All of these historical facts are masterfully captured in the pages of Kij Johnson novel, combined with subtle fantasy elements, also typical of Japanese tales: ghosts, animal spirits, kami deities ( they are everywhere, in everything from a family's shrine to a dying cycad-palm on a beach in distant Satsuma province; and their voices are everywhere, all chattering or twittering or intoning at once ).The termfudokiis used to describeself and soul and home and shrine, all in one to a cat, continuity and tradition and identity through stories. When a feral cat living in an abandoned residence sees her world destroyed in an earthquake and the subsequent firestorm, she loses herfudokiand is cast adrift on an epic journey that will gain her the title Kagaya-hime, the Cat Who Traveled a Thousand Miles.The tale of Kagaya-hime is put down on paper as a journal of the last days in the life of Imperial Princess Harueme. Born under a thousand thousand rules, the princess finds solace and escape from her monotonous, cloistered existence in imagining the adventures of the little tortoiseshell cat.The two stories weave around one another, giving meaning and purpose to each other, princess and cat becoming kindred spirits, sisters-in-arms, dream and reality walking side by side. As Princess Harueme recalls the loves and friendships that made her life endurable, so Kagaya-hime learns to abandon her loneliness, her isolation and to relate to the people, animals, and kami that are part of her story.If you are looking for an action packed, edge of the seat thriller, this book most probably will not qualify. It is a poetic meditation, often infused with sadness, mostly contemplative and passive observation of the world. Both main actors are outsiders: Harueme is often forced to look at the world and converse with people from behind a privacy saving curtain, her every gesture and word subject to rules and interdictions; Kagaye-hime is isolated by her predatory instincts, her orphaned status and her fiercely protected independence. The prose of Kij Johnson is a joy to behold, feelings and moods often reflected in nature's shifting landscapes, in the play of rain and wind and moonlight on formal gardens or majestic vistas. The depth of the research is impressive, detailing the aristocratic dance of the Heian nobility, the frankly very liberal courtship traditions of the period (where the women often had the liberty of inviting a favorite into her private chamber, regardless of marriage status), the cultural and social interactions (Young men and women together in the moonlight breed poetry as oak trees breed mushrooms.War has a special place in the story. Although the exclusive province of men, women experience it either remotely through the scars left on their brothers and lovers or directly when their house stands in the way of war bands. The research is again exhaustive: the armour, the weapons, the strategies, the economic implications, the extreme cruelty, and the ultimate pointlessness of the exercise, they are all part of the journey of Kagaya-hime.Well, Takase said, his tone measured, as if he were about to comment on an arrangement of irises. We will kill them. They will kill us. But it will be done. Go on, then.: this is one of the most chilling and succint discourses from a general before the battle I have ever read.Religion is another aspect explored in the text, beside court manners and warfare. Harueme grows up in the animist tradition of old Japan:Is not everything filled with kami, every stick and rock and leaf? Perhaps I have been the first to recognize and worship this kami, but that did not mean it had not been there, lonely and hungry for attention, like a bored little girl. Now, so many decades later that I do not choose to count them up, I think there may be another truth to this - that the rock was worthy of worship because it had been worshiped - that every shrine in the world began as mine did, with someone's longing for something greater than herself.Kagaya-hime is herself led and transformed by kami spirits, wild and unpredictable, probably benevolent, just as likely indifferent to her fate. Animals, as higher life forms than rocks and twigs, share both language and social institutions with humans, not so much different here than in the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine. Some references to events and characters from the previous Kij Johnson novel (The Fox Woman) are present here, but the two stories are largely self contained and can be read independently.If I were to draw a conclusion to the novel, it would be about the importance of stories in defining our fudoki, of revealing who we are and what our place in the world is: Tales and memories, however inaccurate, are all we have. The things I have owned, the people I have loved - these are all just ink in notebooks that my mind stores in trunks and takes out when it is bored or lonely. It is in the recording of things, in our memories if nowhere else, that makes them real.

  • Amanda
    2019-05-02 05:49

    This was really great! At its core it's about isolation and loneliness and eventually making a home for oneself. It has a dual narrative: Harueme is an elderly dying princess writing the tale of Kagaya-hime, a cat-turned-human with no family, no home, and no fudoki. As Kagaya-hime embarks on a journey to forget the pain and loss in her past, Harueme begins to reflect upon her life and pass judgments on what truly mattered over the years. This book talks a lot about grief and mortality, which I really enjoyed, and came to some profound conclusions that were said in an offhand, humble manner. I loved the landscapes Johnson paints, especially the winter scenes. There were some bits having to do with warfare that didn't interest me as much, but I wasn't bogged down by it, either. I'll be reading everything that Kij Johnson writes in the future!

  • Nesa Sivagnanam
    2019-05-16 03:47

    Fudoki by Kij Johnson. I have to admit that I picked up the book because the cover illustration is of a Japanese warrior cat woman.The story is set in a Japanese myth-influenced universe and revolves around Kagaya-hime. She may be a woman. She's sometimes a warrior or a philosopher or even a reluctant friend. She may truly be a cat or perhaps is a figment of the imagination of a dying princess.The tale moves between the princess who might be making it up and writing it down in the twilight of her life; and Kagaya-hime, the cat woman.She was a cat living with a clan. She had her own fudoki - an oral history of all the female cats in her clan. A fire kills all the cats so she loses her tale, her fudoki. And without a tale, she is no one. She cannot join another fudoki without losing herself so she chooses to walk along the Tokaido road because it, unlike her, knows where it's going. She only recognised that the Tokaido had a direction, a meaning, and this made it unlike her.Along the way she meets the kami of Japan, Gods who in their curiosity about this creature new to Japan, give her a human shape. Not a cat but not quite a woman either. Her nature is that of a cat. Her eyes see further, her ears are sharper. She hunts and kills like a cat.She does not understand the change or why it has happened, only that it has. So she journeys along the road and all the while the princess writes and breathes her life away. The end is perhaps the surprise and you get to decide how much of a choice we all really have in the vast scheme of the universe. Do we walk freely or are we sometimes nudged along paths because at the end of the path there is one waiting who has a great need for us. And we might not have chosen that path on our own.Fudoki is a tale of two journeys perhaps. It's looking in the mirror of the Other and perhaps seeing onself truly. The prose is elegant. It's moves along the pages with a feline grace. There are sentences and paragraphs that strike chords deep inside and I think we will all see something of ourselves in the cat or the princess or both."What are these voices?""The gods," the kami said. "The eight million gods, speaking all at once.""Are they all roads?""That would be a lot of roads. No. They are peace. War. Rice, barley. A thousand forges, ten thousand gates. This lake, that pond, the other river... A tree, all trees, a forest, all forests...""How can there be so many of you, and I have never met a god before this?""How would you know if you met one? You cats live in a cat-shaped world...""And now I am not even a cat," she said bitterly."You are no more and no less than you ever were," the kami said. "You lost nothing that was yours in the first place."and in the end ..."Who says you are on a different road than you were," the kami said. "There are a lot of roads, and they go everywhere. Some of them can't be seen. You are coming to the end of this one.""But then what?" she said, her eyes filling with tears."You will settle down. make a new fudoki.""Alone?"...."When's the last time you wre alone? You tale is a thousand long already - men, women, horses...."She opened her mouth to speak, but a thought came to her and she said nothing, her mouth gaping open, forgotten. "I never tried," she finally said. "I wept and complained and mourned, but I never thought... But why?"You needed a home. Could a cat come a thousand miles?....""Did I come here or was I summoned?" ....In the end I loved the book perhaps because of the cat or maybe it was the journey and the way it played out in the end. It's a book I see myself re-reading again and again.

  • Phoenixfalls
    2019-05-18 04:43

    First, I have to say, that jacket description is riddled with so many small inaccuracies about this story that I was tempted not to include it. They aren't fundamentally important inaccuracies -- though it is very important to realize that the "she" referred to at the start of the second paragraph is Kagaya-hime, not the "aging empress" who isn't an empress at all -- but it bugs me now that I've read the story to see how wrong it is. Ah well, moving on.This is a wonderful book, sure to appeal to fans of Patricia McKillip and Catherynne Valente, though it's more accessible than either of their work. It's very much rooted in the myths of Japan, and while I don't know a ton about the time period, nothing of what I do know was contradicted by what Johnson wrote, so I am assuming that she captured the era (Heian-era Japan I believe) with some degree of accuracy. Like in McKillip and Valente's work, this is not fantasy that lovingly details a set of rules for its magic system; it is fantasy where there are gods and there are humans and there are animals and the lines between these things are not sharp at all, where anything can happen and no one is much surprised when anything does. Logic plays a role, but it's dream logic, and the worst error to commit is in assuming that any other being's motivations match our own.But what made this book brilliant (and caused it to be nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award) is the way in which it is fundamentally a womens' fantasy. The fudoki of the cats is entirely female; there is no place for males, and none of the fudoki cares to even know the names of the toms that fathered their kittens. Harueme (this would be the aging noblewoman narrating Kagaya-hime's tale, half-sister to the former Emperor Shirakawa) also lives in an almost entirely female world, where women have husbands and lovers but their days are spent hidden from male sight (and even the seductions take place with an eye to maintaining the illusion that no man can see their faces). Harueme loved her half-brother, and reminisces about her soldier-lover Domei, but the most important relationship she has is with her attendant, Shigeko. The novel even acknowledges that women menstruate -- I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand the SF/F novels that do that -- and there are elaborate (historically-based, I assume) codes of conduct built around that simple fact of life. It's a novel about women's issues: family and home and place in a society when all of those things are rigidly proscribed.It works on a pure fantasy level too, with the cat-transformed-into-a-human element and the presence of the kami (which are a whole class of gods, not the name of a specific god as the jacket implies) and even a small war of revenge that leads to a seige; and I'm pretty sure it works as historical fiction, though as I've said I don't know very much about the time period so I can't attest to its accuracy. But it will linger in my memory because it shows a slice of life fantasy novels too often forget, not with any particular message, but just because these are stories that rarely get told. I wish there were more novels like this.

  • Siria
    2019-05-05 05:38

    I cannot remember who it was who recommended this novel to me, so I will just have to thank the happy serendipity which caused my eye to fall upon it while I was pottering around in the Forbidden Planet in London, and made me pick it up. The prose is a delight--vivid and subtle and precise--full of insights which are sharp without ever being overstated. Johnson also manages to interweave the two main strands of the story incredibly well--of Princess Harueme, old and slowly dying, and of the cat-turned-woman, Kagaya-hime. They are never made truly distinct from one another, flowing from Harueme's story to Kagaya-hime's and back again. In the hands of a lesser writer, such a story-telling device would be confusing, but Johnson makes it work incredibly well for her. This is apparently the successor to a previous novel, which is definitely going on my to-look-for list.

  • Margaret
    2019-05-05 08:33

    Fudoki is an entrancing fantasy set in medieval Japan. Johnson skillfully interweaves the reminiscences of an aging princess with the tale the princess is writing of a woman turned into a cat, who may or may not exist outside the princess's imagination. The language is exquisitely precise, with never a wasted word, and the portrayal of medieval Japan brilliantly vivid.

  • Catherine
    2019-05-19 01:41

    This is an extraordinarily beautiful book, written in clear, sweet, lyrical prose that I found so calming, I could only read it before bed. (A bizarre quirk of mine, perhaps? But I tried to read this over breakfast one morning, and found my thoughts - racing ahead to anticipate the day - completely unsuited to the gracefulness of the prose, and so I made it a bedtime-only read.)There are two stories in this book - that of the elderly Princess Harueme, and that of Kagaya-hime, a cat who takes on a woman's shape for reasons that she does not understand. In the beginning the tales are separate - Harueme writes Kagaya-hime's tale to occupy her as she prepares to leave the Emeperor's palace and go into a convent to die - but somewhere along the way they begin to weave together. The blurring of boundaries between the two women's tales is masterfully done, and not every segue is apparent until you're deeply inside the thoughts and feelings of the opposite woman to the one with whom you began. "We" and "I" become loaded terms that pull you, as the reader, into the text as well - the book itself loses its boundaries, and the tale becomes a living thing that encompasses all female experience.That said, the subject matter is not dainty, or sheltered, or female by the measure of any particular trope. Princess Harueme loves beetles and mice, loved to draw the wings of birds as a child, has read as much about war as she can lay her hands on. Kagaya-hime travels long distances, defends herself when attacked, hunts and comforts and fights, on her own and with others. Between the two tales we see the measure of a woman as defined by convention, and the measure of a woman defined by herself.And the ending - oh, the ending is exquisite, and I put down the book and just smiled happily into empty space when I was done. Such a lovely, lovely book.

  • Kris
    2019-05-08 05:41

    Ancient Japan fascinates me and I can't think of a more interesting time that Heian-kyo, 11th century in Japan's old capital now known as Kyoto. While this story takes place in late Heian - 1129, I believe the author mentioned - it has all the charm and cultural nuances one would expect. Sei Shonagan finds her name in these pages, as does Murasaki Shikibu. We read about ancient Japanese marriage customs and war and seiges. We learn about the life of the gods that govern and of times of hardship.We follow the life of a cat who suddenly finds herself in woman-form on a quest though she does not yet know it because she is just 'nothing and no one'. This is also a tale of an old Heian princess as she slowly fades away from this world to the next, some unnamed tumor growing inside her killing her a bit day after day.It is a sweet story of life, loss, and home and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved reading about Kagaya-hime (even if her name is so similar to Kaguya-hime that I kept thinking of the moon!) and of Harueme, the 70+ year old princess scribbling away her last days in her journal before she finally moves on. A recommended read!

  • Philippa Mary
    2019-05-03 04:30

    This was fantasy like I have never read before - it is really a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. It is such a unique book based on Japanese myth that is beautifully written - it is an adventure that will have you engaged until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the two storylines of Harueme and the cat woman Kagaya-hime, and it is the type of book that you just don't want to end. Johnson did a phenomenal job at making both narratives engaging and I can't pick a favourite. I also loved the setting of 11th century Japan and it was interesting to learn more about court life, especially for the women. If you are interested in Japanese culture, history and/or mythology then you will most likely enjoy this. I highly recommend it.

  • William Leight
    2019-05-22 02:48

    [3.5 stars really]“Fudoki” consists of two stories. The first is about a cat who, after the death of her clan (in the story, cats live in clans) in a fire, decides to strike out along the road that runs north from Kyoto, and is turned into a woman partway there by the spirit (or kami) of the road. Subsequently she makes friends with a noblewoman she meets on the road and ends up being involved in a small but vicious war between noble families in the north, which is technically part of the Japanese Empire but is still fairly wild and appears to have considerable autonomy. To contrast with this rather fantastical story — it’s not just that the cat is turned into a woman, and that the kami continues to provide her with whatever she needs, up to and including servants, as she travels along, but also that she is so easily accepted as a woman who is really a cat by the other characters — we have the other half of the book, which is essentially the autobiography of the royal princess Harueme, who is writing the cat’s story. Since she is also dying of cancer, she has a strong incentive to look back over her life, and it becomes increasingly clear that the cat’s story is merely a chance for Harueme to think about her life from an unexpected angle: in particular, to think about the love of her life, Domei, a guardsman from the north whose leaving she still mourns, though it happened decades ago. This is an interesting idea: unfortunately, as the story of the cat-woman continues, and it becomes more and more a way for us to watch Harueme think about events and people that she has avoided thinking about for years, its intrinsic interest decreases, mainly because its fantastical elements increasingly appear to be simply imposed from the outside by its author (Harueme, that is) to push the story in the direction she wants it to go. The way that this sheds light on Harueme’s thinking does not compensate for the damage this does to the credibility of the cat-woman’s story, especially since the sections of the book that are simply Harueme describing her life and musing about her past are both more enlightening and more interesting. By the middle of the book, I found myself no longer much caring what happened to the cat-woman. Which is fine, as Harueme is more than interesting enough to carry the book by herself, but I think that ideally the proportion of the book devoted to the cat-woman’s story would be reduced as the book goes along and Harueme increasingly assumes center stage. Once the cat-woman’s story becomes a slog, Harueme’s story is inevitably affected as well. Johnson’s novel “The Fox Woman” (some characters from which appear in the cat-woman’s story) does a better job as an adaptation of Japanese folktales about magical transformations, and her story “The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles” is better as the story of a cat who travels a long distance in Japan. However, Harueme’s character is enough to keep you reading: an intelligent and strong-willed woman trapped in the restrictions of Japanese imperial court life, she’s not necessarily all that original, but Johnson does an excellent job creating her voice, and the reader ends up far more invested in her past than in the cat-woman’s future. (Credit should also be given to Johnson’s research, the breadth and depth of which is readily apparent.)

  • Kim
    2019-05-14 00:26

    I was a little disappointed after reading this book because I had first read The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson and the voice of the narrative was so different. What I had liked most about The Fox Woman was the way it was written: very wistful and almost romantic while still remaining mystical and supernatural. I also loved the poems written by each of the characters. None of that was in this sequel. When I first started to read, the tragedy that occurred to the tortoiseshell cat drew me in and I wanted to know more and wanted to see what would happen to the cat. However, once she transformed into a woman, I lost my desire to continue reading for a good part of the book(I did continue, though). What had made me sigh in disappointment was the fact that once she had been turned into a human, in what was (sort of) meant to be a punishment or road to understanding, everything that she needed just magically appeared. A farmer's wife asked if she carried needles, and suddenly she did. Often things would appear out of no where even if she didn't even realize that she had needed them because she had never been near humans and didn't know about these things. Knives, a sword, a bow and arrows, needles, a horse, servants...she did not ask for them and didn't know she needed them, and yet they were magically provided. Now, at the very end of the story I realized the reason why these things magically appeared, but it was still distracting every time it happened until the point in the story where the reason is hinted at (at least for me). As a reader, I felt that too many things were being provided to her so freely, especially if the one who turned her into this form was seemingly upset with her. I expected a little more hardship, I suppose. Otherwise, the tortoiseshell's story was very engrossing and I read it mainly for the cat.However, mixed in with the story of the cat is the story of the court woman writing the cat's story. In the beginning of the book, I didn't really want to read about the court woman. Slowly over the course of the book, I began to want to know more and more about her. In the end, I ended up wanting to skip the parts with the cat to see what would happen to the court woman. I ended up being fascinated by the rules a court woman from that time period in Japan had to live by. Overall, this was a very good book, but for me it definitely lacked a bit in the middle.

  • Tom Whalley
    2019-04-29 01:33

    I can't seem objective about this book and I won't even try. Fudoki is a great dang book about cats and the people who love them.The novel follows two stories. First is the story of an elderly Japanese princess with lung cancer, in feudal times, as she comes to terms with her death and muses on her life. She reflects back on the servants she has lived with, the people she has loved and the way her life had lead down. It's quiet and reflective, in the way that any good book about someone who is dying should be. There's nothing amazing or special to be said here, it isn't a literary masterpiece, it's just a story of an old lady winding down for the big nap as she writes her memoirs. Then there's the second story. The one I can't be objective about. The princess's diaries, it turns out, are the stories she writes of a cat who lost her family. Distraught, she becomes a woman and a warrior, because as a cat she is nothing. It's the most dang cat thing I've read, all the way through. Reading with my cats alternating between wrestling over my legs and purring on my chest only added to the cattery. Such cat.I loved that this book was very female. One story is about how a woman can be defined through culture; the other a woman defined through nothing but her own actions. In the world of cats, male cats have no real cultural purpose. In the world of humans, we never interact with a single man. It disappointed me a bit that the character of Domei is just talked about, and in some chapters to extreme lengths, rather than given any stage time. It's only a disappointment because in reference, Domei sounds so interesting but oh well.Sadly, the book isn't really that great, if I'm honest. The first fifty to a hundred pages are fantastic and then... things just sort of keep happening for a bit and then there's a perfectly adequate ending that... well, it just happens. It's not a bad book by any means, and if you already like cats then dang read the heck out of this, but otherwise it's just... there.

  • Sadie Forsythe
    2019-04-28 06:23

    It took me a full 120 pages to finally get truly interested in this book. It's jut so very slow. Now, it's meant to be. It's about a dying old woman who, while writing a fictional story, is contemplated her life. From the very beginning there was a lot to think about, but I was honestly bored. However, once Hime becomes human things pick up a little...or maybe I had finally just adjusted to the slow pace. But once I got past the slow pace, I was really impressed with this as a contemplation on place—the idea of one's social place, place as a physical location and the intersection of these ideas that construct our sense of ourselves (Fudoki). Harueme is a princess—daughter, grandaughter, sister and aunt to emperors. But this same high rank (place in society) is a prison of sort, keeping her in her place dreaming of being free, of seeing the world and new places. She is never allowed to escape her place, physical or cultural. While simultaneously, Hime is a cat who has lost her Fudoki, her place and therefore the sense and understand of self that it provided. She spends the whole book looking for a place to be her and her own.If you're looking for a contemplative read and have any interest in 11th century Japanese culture I recommend picking this one up.

  • Patricia J. O'Brien
    2019-05-07 03:39

    Fudoki is an amazing book but won't be for everyone. It is slow, sort of meditative in style, following the preparation for death of an aged princess. She is cleaning out her belongings, including many notebooks of writing, but she finds she needs to fill some blank ones with one last story.That tale of a cat who loses her home and travels far, turning into a cat-woman and warrior as she journeys, mingles with Princess Harueme's memories of her sequestered life and of her lost dreams.Their stories become more complex, intense, and fulfilling as Fudoki moves toward its conclusion.I love beautiful writing and this book is filled with it.Here are a couple of examples:"She was learning something about grief, that it begins with a great blow, but heals with a thousand tiny strokes.""There was a day, beautiful and surprisingly cold: autumn, though winter was a clear omen in the air. The forest shivered gold and red and pine-green in the wind. There were ducks overhead, shouting directions at one another as they arrowed south in great untidy flocks."

  • Lydia
    2019-05-21 08:40

    This was a lovely little tale. I can tell that it's not a favourite, because I didn't devour it or feel any need to be completely immersed in the novels, but it was lovely.The way that Johnson flicked between the tale of Kagaya-hime, Harueme's present life, and Harueme's past, was wonderfully done and it never confused me. There's nothing more irritating than an author writing a story in this convoluted way, but not having the skill to do it well. The relationship between Harueme and Shigeko was beautifully written and Johnson perfectly depicted the strong bond of female friendship and love. Oh, and the writing was goddamn perfect.There's nothing I can pick out that I disliked about this book, it just didn't have that "wow" factor to make it a favourite. But it was a wonderful book about life, friendship, family, love, and a cat.

  • Yune
    2019-05-23 04:32

    One of the few times I've been equally enthralled by two entwined narratives, instead of skipping through to read about my favorite character. In historical Japan, a cat loses the story of her bloodline, and must deal with her grief when she is turned human; an empress is dying, and begins writing her own tale.I've also found Johnson to be one of the few convincing Western writers of an Asian perspective.

  • Evan Jensen
    2019-05-21 02:25

    Sorrow for mortality and the desire to alter things from what they are. These are the overwhelming tones of the book. Great characterization and unique portrayal of anthropomorphized animal character.

  • SWC
    2019-04-29 08:41

    Kij Johnson is a master of quiet, unassuming prose. Unlike some fantasy I have read Johnson’s pacing is measured, it does not throw the reader between dramatic battle scenes and trite monologues about good and evil, instead she dwells on bright details and allows for her characters to grow. War, magic, and battle are elements in Johnson’s story but they remain parts of the narrative never drowning out the whole. Fantasy seems to be the genre with the most potential, the author’s imagination is the limit, but it often ends up as repetitive tropes.Fudokifeels free of those limitations and is a pleasure to read.One of my favorite elements of the novel is the rich foil between Kagaya-hime and Harueme. Harueme, the emperor’s sister, is constrained by her place in society, seeking freedom while Kagaya-hime the cat warrior has lost her niche in the world and searches for a new sense of identity. One character who wishes for structure and one who looks for it. The interplay is excellent and Johnson manages to subtly weave the foil into her book.Kagaya-hime and Harueme are great characters. Harueme is especially well done, it is rare enough that an elderly and dying character is among the main cast of characters but also experiences personal growth. Nearing the end of the story, I grew attached to Harueme and as the ending grew nearer I began to feel a creeping sense of despair about her pending demise. Harueme’s humanity is splendid, whereas Kagaya-hime’s feline attributes are well depicted. Kij Johnson has done extensive research on feline behavior, per the research notes, and it shows in her characterization of Kagaya-hime. The secondary characters are strong as well.My hesitation in givingFudokifive stars was mostly due to the resolution. (view spoiler)[ It is revealed that Kagaya-hime is real and that Harueme has escaped the confines of the palace in order to meet the cat. The ending felt contrived, after Harueme’s beautiful reminiscing and further development in the “fictional” story of Kagaya-hime it felt like the author sacrificed the arc of the story for a happy send off.(hide spoiler)] Also, I felt that parts of Harueme’s memories dragged, it may be my penchant for story motion but there were points where the memories felt extraneous. Resolution and slow points aside, Kij Johnson’s story is great.

  • Ericka
    2019-05-11 07:23

    I enjoyed this book more than The Fox Woman. It had better characters and a better story. Both Kagaya-hime and Harume are interesting and likable, but you never get overly familiar with them since they are both people who tend to stand apart from others either due to social status or the fact that cats are just very aloof. Although the story had an overall melancholy tone, it had a hopeful ending. My only complaint is the way that the author uses Japanese words. She will write the phrase "kaze-cold" instead of using either "kaze" or "cold". It's like how fan translators would say "All according to keikaku (translator's note: keikaku means plan)". In the place where she uses them, it doesn't make sense, since there's a perfectly acceptable translation that means the same thing. It was like she was using them to further emphasize the foreignness of the story, but it came across as someone who knows a little bit of Japanese trying to show off to people who don't. It was annoying, but it didn't detract from the story too much for me.

  • Denise
    2019-05-15 08:41

    This is a very interesting book with two main characters: the cat turned woman turned warrior Kagaya-hime and the elderly Japanese princess Harumae. Kagaya-hime is the character in a story being told/written about by Harumae. Both characters wrestle with loneliness and strictures that prevent them from being able to participate fully in the worlds into which they have been thrust. But at the same time, neither woman can take her place in the world in which she longs to be (for Kagaya-hime, this is the colony of cats that was once her home; for Harumae, it is the larger world which she longs to see). But the book ends on a hopeful note, pointing out that it's never too late to have at least some taste of the world you want to join if you are determined enough, brave enough, and helped enough in your goal. I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

  • Amy
    2019-05-07 02:39

    When I realized this is a second book, I was quite wary, worrying that this will ruin my reading experience. I am captivated by its plot, the characters and the narrator. This is a tale within a tale. A very enchanting book indeed. The war part reminded me of the manga series, Kingdom that I've recently binge-reading. Cats play a big role in this story and I love how the characteristics of the cats blended so well with the magical realism and the fantasy elements in it. I would check out the 1st book if I have the chance.

  • Angelica
    2019-05-13 06:38

    What a delightful read!There are so many things I love about this book I can't even say all of them. The characterization, the theme, the story, the symbols, everything.It's not absolutely necessary to read the first novel, The Fox Woman, to enjoy this, but I think it would be a good idea, to have a better understanding of the universe.Loved it!

  • James Roberts
    2019-05-07 01:45

    Johnson writes with an undeniable lyricism that you cannot help but fall completely into. Even the more boring, slow sections of the novel are enrapturing with Johnson’s beautiful prose. While the dueling tales of the book can seem tedious at times, they are deftly intertwined and satisfyingly can’t concluded. A joyous experience.

  • Paul Hebron
    2019-05-09 08:38

    Brilliant!!Brilliant!! A vivid and always compelling journey of graciously shared imagination....a genuine gift! If your unfamiliar with Johnson's work, wait no won't be disappointed!!

  • Elizabeth Spencer
    2019-04-27 05:36

    Fudoki is a Japanese kami-story about a Heian-era princess and the story she writes in her journals. Princess Harueme, an old woman and half-sister to a former emperor, is dying. While she waits for her condition to get bad enough to require her to leave the palace, she writes a monogatari-tale about a cat who learns to speak to the kami, is transformed into a woman, and becomes a warrior-woman named Kagaya-hime.Fudoki is essentially a story about Harueme coming to terms with her death. She spends a lot of time talking about herself--her life, how she grew up, the people she knew, and how they died. And when she can't, she tries to lose herself by writing a mythical tale about a magical cat-woman.Kagaya-hime's story reads like an epic tale. It isn't a tale with a purpose. You have no idea where it's going, you don't know what's going to happen next, and you don't know what the stakes are. It reads like a Japanese myth or an old fairy-tale--it's just a tale with adventure and magic and mystery, where you never know what will happen next.Fudoki's main weakness is that it's extremely slow. It takes about 2/3 of the novel to really hit its stride, and the first quarter of the book is honestly kind of frustrating. The non-linear storytelling and multiple, non-interacting POVs don't help, as they mean it takes most of the story to learn much about Harueme or Kagaya.But once it reaches that point, it's incredibly good--and heartfelt, and sad, and poignant. Like The Fox Woman, the ending is terribly happy and sad all at once, and the characters are just so wonderful. Heartbreakingly wonderful. Really.It's hard not to compare it to Kij Johnson's other novel, The Fox Woman. They're both about animals in ancient Japan who transform into humans, and they both are split between sections told by the humans and sections told by the animals. The humans in both stories are noble, while the animals are magical and capable of speaking to kami. And if I were forced at knife-point to decide which one I liked better, I would probably say The Fox Woman.The Fox Woman's protagonists are in direct competition. The animals live in the garden, the humans live in the manor, and you know right from the beginning that their relationship is going to be complex and interesting. And the fox-woman protagonist is also far more easy to empathize with, as you spend a lot more time in her head and see exactly how she responds to the humans who challenge her.Fudoki is a much airier, much less cohesive story. It's a smaller, more personal story about one woman's life and the things she writes in her journal. I had moments where I empathized with Kagaya-hime, but you see far fewer of her personal thoughts, feelings, and motivations than you did with the protagonist in The Fox Woman.On the other hand, Fudoki is about cats. And cats are the best!But really, they're both exceptionally good books, and a must for anyone who might be interested in historically-accurate Japanese youkai-stories.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-28 05:32

    I’m not usually big into fantasy, particularly not ones involving court life, but I am a real sucker for any story involving cats, especially if that cat is a tortoiseshell, since I’m the proud kitty mommy of a talkative tortie. This book didn’t just not disappoint me, it blew me away with two side-by-side, related by different, thoughtful tales.I had no idea when I picked up the book that the empress would figure into the story quite so much. At first I was a bit irritated that she was a) getting 40% to 50% of the storytime and b) rambling off from one thought to another like elderly people tend to do. But I stayed patient, and I learned that there was more to the empress than met the eye and also that the two stories were actually informing each other. Kagaya-hime’s story shows everything the empress had secretly wished for her whole life, and the empress’s life translated into how Kagaya-hime felt trapped in her human body. It’s artfully done in a subtle way, which is part of what makes it so beautiful.Kagaya-hime goes from a sad lost kitty with burned paws to a warrior woman, allowed along on a quest for revenge by a moderately elite rural family. She is able to earn respect from the men as a warrior because as a cat she sees no reason not to hunt or defend herself. She is a woman but no one ever took her claws away (though they may be arrows and knives now, instead of claws). Thinking of her is empowering to the empress, who always had an interest in war and politics but was forced to remain literally behind screens in gorgeous gowns that are hard to move in. It’s interesting to note that while the empress may be jealous of Kagaya-hime’s ability to do what she wants and defend herself, Kagaya-hime herself is unhappy because she simply wishes to be a cat again. It is the conclusion to Kagaya-hime’s story that allows the empress to see a conclusion to her own story (her life) that will ultimately make her feel fulfilled.The details of ancient Japan were clearly meticulously researched. Johnson smoothly writes about the outfits, land, and battles as if she was there for them herself. The information never comes through as an info dump but instead is something that simply is, that the reader learns about naturally just by venturing into Kagaya-hime and the empress’ world. This is what knowing your history inside and out before starting writing does for historic fiction. It makes history come to life.Overall, this is a stunning piece of historic fiction the reading of which feels like slowly sipping a well-made matcha latte. Fans of historic fiction of all sorts will be engaged, those that love cats will be enthralled, and those with an interest in women’s history will be enamored and touched by how much things change and yet still stay the same for women. Recommended to all who think they might even possibly be interested in a piece of historic fiction set in Japan featuring an aging empress and a shape-changing cat.Check out my full review.

  • Sara
    2019-05-13 02:36

    Fudoki was an absolutely wonderful book. It took me a long time to read because it was that type of book--a slow, thought-provoking story with many layers of meaning--and I was so glad that I took the time to savor it. So, this tale is set in medieval Japan and has its roots in Japanese mythology. There are several layers to the tale. It's not really a frame story, but more like a weave story in which two narratives are influenced by each other and comment (directly or indirectly) on the other story. On one level, this is the tale of the princess Harueme, who is seventy years old and suffering health problems that she knows will kill her. She is preparing to leave the imperial court, where she has lived for decades while a variety of male relatives served as emperor of Japan. She has lived a life of restriction and decorum, but she has also bucked against her restraints through her interest in wildlife and biology and through various ways of acting out. In her last days at the imperial court, she decides to fill her empty notebooks with a story she creates herself. Princess Hareume's story is about a tortishell cat who loses her home, family, and living history in one fell swoop. This cat, feeling lost and not knowing where to turn, begins to walk down the road and ends up on a de facto quest to regain her sense of belonging to a larger world. She occasionally hears spirits, or "kami," one of which is the voice of the road. Soon, the kami or some other influence causes the cat to become a woman, thus making her even more miserable. She's not quite a normal woman--there are magical aspects to her body and travels, and she retains many feline qualities, including and aloof nature and willingness to kill without hesitation. She lives and walks and fights without hope of recovering a sense of meaning or belonging, but as a reader I was hoping very much that things might work out for her in the end. And while the princess writes, she comments on the story she's writing and how the parts of the cat's tale intersect with her own long experience. The two narratives entwine and interchange in intricate ways. There were several really clever, thought-provoking twists at the end. I just thought that this was an amazing book filled through and through with details of Japanese culture, unusual perspectives and ideas, and interesting characters. It's philosophical, beautiful, and evokes pathos all at the same time. And what was especially great about this book, at this particular point in my life, is that it was thoroughly and refreshingly adult. I don't mean "adult" as in naughty, but rather actually mature. This story deals with aging, loss, memory, legacy, and lingering grief--things that are more likely to be important to those who have grown up and experienced more of life. So good if you're in a thinking mood!

  • Ian Ayres
    2019-05-01 03:36

    ive heard the saying a cat can look at a king, and this ethos applies to the gods here. an interweaved tale of a cat transformed into a warrior woman, a fanciful memoir, and how the different strands of the story interweave and blur are just wonderfully done.

  • Eskana
    2019-05-08 03:26

    Fudoki... what a different book!I went into this knowing very little- I found the inside cover description pretty confusing, and even as I started I had a hard time understanding what "fudoki" meant. The story itself is really two twined together...Harume, the daughter and sister and aunt etc. of Japanese emperors, is dying, and in her old age she begins to think about the biggest moments of her life. As she remembers her own story, she begins to craft another, the story of a cat who is left without her clan/family and her "fudoki" which seems to mean her personal history, in a heritage sort of way, the story of her clan. Left alone, the cat begins to journey north from the capital, something Harume was never able to do.In some ways it seems that she lives through the cat's adventures- something I understand as a writer myself. Sometimes it seems like people she knows are reflected in the cat's story. Together, both the stories entwine beautifully, but at the same time they are separate- it isn't one of those stories where everything is clearly allegorical. Both stories stand alone, and honestly I enjoyed them both. My only problem was that towards the end, I began to tire of the endless flipping back and forth of hte stories... mostly because they were both reaching important points, and I felt like I was being interrupted. Overall, however, I really did enjoy the book. I didn't feel anyone but the two main characters was especially deep, but Johnson crafted a beautiful world with his words- or two worlds, I guess. I felt it was really well written, and I enjoyed it. A truly unique book- I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction with a touch of magic or legend to it. Harume's story is historical completely, while the cat's has a bit of magic to it. Really enjoyable.