The novel has everything: a winning main character, an action-packed plot, swordfights, and romance, but it is also a fascinating, easy-to-digest history lesson about Japan's response to the shocking arrival of United States Commodore Matthew Perry's "Black Ships" off the shores of Japan in 1853. Shiba manages to juggle historical events of those days to tell a rollicking story, and he is helped tremendously by the engaging Sakamoto Ryōma, who starts out as an apolitical, low-ranking samurai from the countryside, a young nobody whose greatest wish is to improve his swordfighting skills in Edo. But Ryōma gets caught up in the drama of his times and, at first unwillingly but later with great gusto, he feels that it is his duty to help his country join other nations of the world. Shiba takes us through the chain of events that galvanize Ryōma and turn him into a popular national hero.
Ryōma! is a page-turner of high drama and lofty ideals, leavened with witty dialogue and lovingly detailed swordfights.
This is Volume I of a four-volume series.