Off the Shelf

“Dai-San”

By Marcus Pan

Dai-SanDai-San is the third part in the Sunset Warrior Trilogy, a samurai-fantasy by Eric Van Lustbader. A late 70s novel that helped build the cliché’s of the genre, Dai-San follows the lone exploits of Ronin, a masterless samurai seeking to solve a riddle written on an ancient papyrus to help quell the sorcerous power of The Dolman which seeks to wipe out mankind.

Being the third part in the series, and my having been unable to find the first two (The Sunset Warrior & Shallows of Night respectively), I had to start here – at the story’s end. We open with Ronin and his mysterious mute friend Moeru on a ship in search of the fabled Ama-no-Mori, a lost island where the sorcerer-warriors of man’s previous golden age are said to still exist. He carries with him a tattered parchment that may hold the key to unlocking the weakness of the strange, evil Dolman, a chaos creature from who-knows-where.

The issue I had with Dai-San was how pedantic it can be. Eric takes strong liberties of poetic license with short pointed sentence structures and confusing descriptions rife with cliché’s of the fantasy genre. Now had I read this book back in 1978, I might have enjoyed it more. But today it comes across dated and jaded. Lots of obsidian eyes, dark spooky descriptive overtones and everyone has jade-encrusted armor and flashing blades. The lone hero’s name is Ronin for crying out loud, a word that you can find in almost any Japanaction fantasy flick or novel.

There’s not much more I can say about Dai-San. It didn’t inspire me much. His forays to help release Moeru from her dreamy demons is pure cheese as is the transformation of Ronin into the Sunset Warrior hero through some strange magical birthing rite that left me more confused than ever. The confrontation with The Dolman is again badly written, overusing fantasy writing descriptory structures and short bursts of verbiage. Like. This. The darkness. Engulfs me.

There’s tons of better literature out there in this genre, just as old, that will never date.

“Dai-San” by Eric Van Lustbader
Copyright © 1978 by Eric Van Lustbader
ISBN: 0-425-06194-9
A Berkeley Book

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