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Heart of the Ronin (The Ronin Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Travis Heermann
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Fantasy writer Travis Heermann (The Ivory Star) brings thirteenth-century Japan to life in Heart of the Ronin, the first installment of a trilogy.

Ken’ishi is just seventeen years old at the time of his parents’ mysterious death. He dreams of someday training with a master who will help him become a samurai.

Traveling with Silver Crane, a sword that belonged to his father, and a dog named Akao, Ken’ishi begins his adventure after he defeats a policeman in a duel and must flee. Just when he thinks he has escaped trouble, he saves Kazuko, the daughter of an influential lord, from a group of bandits. On their journey home, they fall in love, only to discover upon their return that she has been promised to a powerful samurai lord.

Forced to flee once again, he goes on a hunt to discover his past while fighting off warriors and demons, never forgetting that there is a bounty on his head. Will he find out if his father really was a samurai—and why the sword he wields seems to be infused with magic?

Written while the author lived in Japan, Heart of the Ronin combines historical fiction with fantasy to keep readers guessing what Ken’ishi will encounter next in Heerman’s mystical universe. Publishers Weekly says it best: “Numerous tantalizingly unresolved plot threads will have readers anxiously awaiting the second installment in this gripping tale of ill-fated love, betrayal and destiny.”

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A fusion of historical fiction and adventure fantasy, the first volume of Heermann's Ronin Trilogy is a page-turning folkloric narrative of epic proportions. In a strange, supernatural feudal Japan, 17-year-old warrior Ken'ishi, a masterless samurai with a mysterious past and a legendary sword, saves the life of Kazuko, a powerful lord's daughter. Soon he becomes entangled in a deadly web of treachery, obsession and vengeance along with a bevy of conspirators, spies, assassins and otherworldly monstrosities. Though Heermann does little to push the boundaries of the subgenre, his writing style is confident and fluid, his characters well developed and his serpentine story line anything but predictable. Numerous tantalizingly unresolved plot threads will have readers anxiously awaiting the second installment in this gripping tale of ill-fated love, betrayal and destiny. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Ken'ishi is a young ronin, an outcast warrior with no master. Left an orphan at a young age and raised by his teacher Kaa, he believes himself to be the son of a famous samurai, and carries his father's beautiful sword, Silver Crane, with pride. He wanders his world (reminiscent of medieval Japan) searching for somewhere to settle, accompanied by his faithful dog, Akao and speaking with the birds, whose language he alone understands. When he flees from a hostile village after killing the violent drunkard constable Takenaga, he runs straight into adventure - the opportunity to save the beautiful Kazuko, daughter of a wealthy nobleman, from ravaging bandits and then from Hakamadore, an oni (demon) who has been terrorizing the populace. In gratitude, Ken'ishi is invited to become part of Kazuko's father's household; but when he and Kazuko fall in forbidden love, he flees to seek his fortune. Pursued by his enemies and lauded by his friends, Ken'ishi continues the search for the secrets of his past and for a place to settle down. The tale is complex and atmospheric, but wildly overwritten and clunky; the first of a trilogy, it would benefit greatly by a page-count reduction of at least half. It is hard to see the forest for the proverbial narrative trees. -- manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization

This is a good story. I have no complaints. I haven't read a ronin's story in historical Japan before. The closest I've come is the Vagabond manga. Idea is unusual in the American market...plot is gripping, and prose is acceptable (though editing would only help). Overall, I want to keep reading the story, and would buy the book. Good luck in the semi-finals. -- Amazon Top Reviewer

This one captured my attention right away with the dialogue, descriptive wording, and the wonder of why the main character would be at the business end of a sword. I adore historical and that the main character has the ability to talk with animals really captivated me in this tale. I found that I wanted to know more about the characters, their situation, and what would happen next. While this story does use strange words and names, in no way did I feel like it required a dictionary to read. The storyline flows beautifully and really does present a wonderful beginning to a story. -- Amazon Top Reviewer

Product Details

  • File Size: 911 KB
  • Print Length: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (April 1, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00J90C25I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,430 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable adventure yarn, worth your while September 16, 2010
By D. Read
This is the best adventure yarn I've read in years. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story focuses on a young Ronin, who was raised in unusual circumstances as a societal outsider. This turns out to be a great device to allow the reader to experience everything in this unfamiliar land and time through the fresh eyes of the narrator. All of the good sword and sorcery elements are there, but set in feudal Japan instead of somewhere fantastical. Consistent with most s&s, the magic/fantasy element in the story is pretty light--while this imagined Japan does have fantastical elements (some very fun ones), the fantastical elements are not front-and-center in the story.

So why only four stars? Really only because the first few pages of the novel are a bit flawed. The author attempts to set up an opening scene with a fight, putting you right in the action, and the prose mechanics are a little awkward. Anyone who has read only the excerpt, which is the beginning of the novel, should take this into account--don't judge based on the excerpt! After the opening pages, the writing settles down and the author gets into the skillful pacing and plotting of the story that he uses for the rest of the novel. Other than this slightly rough beginning, the author handles all other technical matters in the book very well: pacing, plotting, dialog, original/believable characters, flashbacks, fighting and action scenes, bedroom scenes, weapons and lore, palace intrigue, etc. In a world full of mediocre-to-bad fantasy novels, this is a bright spot.

I hope publishers will take note that this is a fine book that deserves to have the full trilogy published. I'll look forward to reading future volumes, but this was a satisfying read on its own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I got suckered in! :) August 14, 2013
By Mitch
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was given the second book in the trilogy by Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Of course, when I signed up for the giveaways, I didn't realize it was the second book, so of course, when I got it, I had to go and get this, the first book in the series.

This book is about Ken'ishi, a ronin in an alternative 13th century Japan. We know its 13th century due to the threat of Kublai Khan invasion from mainland Asia. We also know it is alternative due to the heavy presence of magic and demons. I thought that Heermann really hammered home the desperate situation that ronin found themselves in; no master, distrusted, and no peaceful skills to trade with in times of peace. Ken'ishi is really just scraping by until events unfold that take him in new directions. He is a ronin due to his orphaning, being taken in and trained by a mysterious sword master. A lot of his back story is filled in as he shares his story with others or runs through them in his own mind. He carries a sword, Silver Crane, which is hinted at having a history and power that is unknown to Ken'ishi and the reader.

This book was a fun read. I enjoyed the bits of Japanese poetry and samurai wisdom from the Hagakure at the beginning of each chapter. Also, I found the super fast fights to be much more realistic than usual for fantasy books; in most the first mistake was the fatal one. And, as I said, I found myself very empathetic for Ken'ishi, who, through no fault of his own, has to deal with this extremely difficult lot in life, determined to make more of himself.

This book is only a small part of a much storyline. Most of the action is rather superficial while a much larger plot lurks in the background, mostly unnoticed by any of the characters. I'm looking forward to reading book 2.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fiction in a difficult genre... October 11, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to hand it to Mr. Heerman, as he has written a wonderfully entertaining story filled with highly engaging and likable characters, and all this in a genre that is very hard to get right. Historical fiction set in feudal Japan is incredibly difficult to write, because the cultural aspects make for a massive minefield of things you can easily get wrong. However, he seems to be very familiar with both the history and the culture of feudal Japan, including Japanese folklore, which he deftly uses to infuse a fantasy element into this novel. Even without the fantasy element, this story would stand on its own; however, the addition of fantasy elements makes it the perfect novel for anyone who loves historical fantasy fiction set in feudal Japan. A narrow audience, perhaps, but I am hoping that this book reaches a much broader audience on the basis of the quality of Mr. Heerman's writing, and by virtue of how cool it is that he pulled this off. Do you love samurai and ninja stories? Ever play a D&D campaign in the Oriental Adventures setting? Geek out on Kurosawa films? Just plain enjoy great fantasy fiction? Then read this book, because it'll be time well spent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not as good as Tales of the otori series April 1, 2014
By naya
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been searching for a fantasy novel that reminded me of lian hearn's tales of the otori trilogy which had samurai, magic, suspense,drama, adventure, great characters, surprises and a great story and based on what i read about this book it should have done all those things but it didnt. The characters r likeable but there isnt enough action and plot twists to make it a good fantasy novel. and it becomes predictable in its plot but i will read the second because it left me hanging and peak my interest just enough to continue with the series.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Innocent reader forced to write review
I think the title says it all. I meant no harm when I began this book but, am now forced, against my will, to write a review I do not want to write. It's a good book. There. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Onion Eaters
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable book: I look forward to the rest of the series.
By way of explanation, I have some background in the martial arts, have taught meditation (including in Japan), and love Japanese history novels from the Samurai and early Zen eras... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Karasu
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fun read, interesting thoughts about Japan and China Ron
Published 4 months ago by Ronald Kiedrowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read, can't complain
Published 7 months ago by Keith Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy enjoyable read
Very enjoyable. Only 4 stars as I felt the whole story line with the upper class girl and lower class boy was familiar, but all in all a good story that kept me engaged and had... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Had difficulty pronouncing some of the character names. I guess I'm too Japanese
Published 7 months ago by Roy F.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it
Published 7 months ago by Diane cowgill
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story. Hard to put down
Excellent story. Hard to put down. Steeped in martial arts and Japanese culture. Only regret is that last book is not out yet.
Published 8 months ago by Warren
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A real page turner!
Published 8 months ago by Daniel Holohan
5.0 out of 5 stars The best part of the journey
Feudal Japanese history meets the supernatural in this rollicking adventure with unforgettable characters and the most vicious of villains, not all of them human. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Aaron M Ritchey
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More About the Author

Travis Heermann has been a freelance writer since 1999. Publishing credits include dozens of magazine articles, role-playing game content for both table-top and online MMORPGs, short fiction.

He is the author of five published novels to date, with the latest being Sword of the Ronin from Bear Paw Publishing.

In early 2012, he added Award-winning Screenwriter to his list of accomplishments. His screenplay Death Wind (as yet unproduced), co-written with Jim Pinto, was awarded first place in the Screenwriting Contest at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA.

He attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering, and spent several years working as an electronic design engineer. In 2003, he shifted his career path from engineering to education, and moved to Japan for three years, where he taught English in public junior high and elementary schools. Nothing makes a person more aware of the structure and idiosyncrasies of English than having to explain it to someone else. With intensive study, he also learned to speak and write Japanese. You can find more information about these experiences, including essays on Japanese history and culture, elsewhere on this web site. He recently received his Masters Degree in English from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, specializing in Advanced Writing.

He wrote his first novel at the tender age of 14, a dreadful but loving mishmash best described as a John Carter of Mars"homage.". He grew up on the lonely plains of rural Nebraska reading about hobbits, vampires, Cimmerians, Tharks, and Jedi, forever twisting him into his current, occasionally warped persona (if you know what all those are, you're as big a geek as he is).

Since high school - in addition to being an engineer, an English teacher, and a writer - he has been, in no particular order: a museum attendant, a bookseller, a referee, a farmer, a construction worker, a comic shop clerk, a pilot, a game designer, and a private English tutor. If a day ever goes by when he does not learn something new, he will probably be dead.

Living in Japan proved to be a springboard to seeing the rest of Asia. Beautiful Bali, with its lush jungles, breathtaking coral reefs, and entrepreneurial spirit fighting against persistent poverty and terrorism. Untamed Cambodia, with the ancient magnificence of Angkor Wat, against its backdrop of crushing poverty and brutal, heartbreaking history. Vivacious Vietnam, with the endless friendliness, ingenuity, and perseverance of the Vietnamese people, struggling to recover from decades of war and isolation. Wild, exotic Thailand, with its rich, fascinating culture, fantastic food, surprise and wonder around every corner, bejeweled temples and shining golden Buddhas. And most of all Japan, a wonderful, endlessly puzzling dichotomy, a vibrant ultra-modern economy with five hundred-year old shrines on every mountain. At the same time, more modern than America and as primitive and simple as it was hundreds of years ago, a country where people forgo chairs to sit on woven reed mats to view cherry blossoms and talk to friends on hi-tech cell phones. As a general warning, if you attempt to engage him in conversation on any of these topics, he'll likely exhibit the tendency to chew your ear off about them.

Nowadays, he writes full time. When he's not writing, he's probably playing a game of some sort, these days preferably Texas Hold 'Em, reading novels or history books, cooking, cycling, or exploring strange and wondrous places. His long-cherished dreams are: a NYT bestseller, a produced screenplay, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

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