#BookBlitz “The Oni’s Shamisen (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Series, Book 9)” by Claire Youmans


The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Series, Book 9


Historical Fantasy, Japan, Paranormal

Date Published: April 2022

Publisher: American I Publishing

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Japan, 1877. Toki-Girl Azuki revels in her new-found freedom. But now what
will she do with it?

Using her patterns and the looms Western Dragon Prince Iyrtsh makes for
Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime’s ambitious project—resettling
refugees displaced by the failed Satsuma Rebellion—anyone can make her
fabulous fabric designs! But what of Azuki herself? Then the Oni, Kukanko,
who is sure she’s not a demon, calls on the Toki-Girl for help.

Can Azuki, Sparrow-Boy Shota, Dragon Princess Renko and Eagle-Boy Akira
find a way to help the Oni? What will a blind musician accomplish using
their results? How can they help Uncle Yuta and Aunt Noriko find places for
newly freed mill workers with no place left to go? Or help Lady Anko and
Lord Toshio defy convention and save their unlucky twins from potentially
lethal superstition? What’s going to happen to a very special horse?

Eastern Dragon King Ryuujin and Western Dragon Queen Rizantona contemplate
the future of their species and the planet, and infant Dragon Prince
Susu’s inability to keep a secret has catastrophic results.

Will Azuki and her friends find a way to help others while saving
themselves, their friends, and their future? Can Azuki find a new

The Oni’s Shamisen is the ninth in the groundbreaking Toki-girl and
Sparrow-boy series where History and fantasy and magical realism collide in
this latest tale from the Meiji Era, a time and place where anything could
happen and probably did!


Get the latest novel in this exhilarating series today!

Other Books in the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Series:

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 1: Coming Home

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2: Chasing Dreams

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 3: Together

The Toki Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 4: Uncle Yuta has an

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 5: Noriko’s Journey

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 6: The Dragon Sisters

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 7: The Eagle and the Sparrow

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 8: The Shadows of War





Azuki, the girl who became a toki, laughed as she soared in the thermal. In
her form as a Japanese Crested Ibis, she rode the wind. Her powerful white
wings, touched with stunning peach accents, worked to carry her far above
the mountainous northern Kyushu landscape.

Laughing with her, Akira, the boy who became an eagle, matched her stroke
for stroke as they circled each other, dancing in the air. They were close
in size, for Steller’s Sea Eagles are proud of being the largest among
eagles—no matter what those Harpy Eagles might think—and the
Japanese Crested Ibis isn’t much smaller.

Dancing in the air wasn’t limited to birds, Akira thought as the wind
softened beneath his wings—only to those who could fly. The Western
Dragon Prince Irtysh and the Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime, though
divergent in form, had learned to dance together, and Otohime had first
learned to do it with her younger and smaller half-sister, their friend,

But nobody did it like eagles!

“Let’s dive,” Akira cried to Azuki. She didn’t
answer, but slowed to nearly stall before tipping her long black beak
downward and tucking in her wings. Akira drove the air with his own muscular
wings to catch her, and they spiraled downwards, twisting closely around
each other, racing towards the land.

They learned this from the dragons, who rejoiced in flight as much as the
birds, and were smart enough and playful enough to take any airborne idea
and expand on it. They all learned from each other.

As they approached the treetops, Azuki called, “Crossover!” and
they changed their courses to hurtle past each other before starting the
upward curve of their next ascent. Careful to keep exact pace with each
other, they curved their angles inward so they would meet at the top of
their arc. Akira thought they might cross over again and descend in lazy
twining circles before landing.

Suddenly, right between them, a dragon appeared.

Akira and Azuki both dodged to avoid this obstacle, who was small for a
dragon, though large compared to them. He was bronze, brown and gold, and in
the classic European fashion, his hide was studded with jewels. When he was
a human, he looked Japanese.

“Nice flight, you two,” the dragon said.

“Susu-chan!” Azuki called. “What are you doing here?
Don’t pop in like that! It’s dangerous!”

“I wasn’t in your way!” Susu objected. Youngest of the
dual-natured dragons, Susu was Renko’s full brother. Otohime was his
much older half-sister, child of the Eastern Dragon King Ryuujin. Irtysh was
his much older half-brother, child of the Western Dragon Queen Rizantona.
Susu was a child prodigy who was afraid of nothing except his fierce and
royal parents, and sometimes his grown-up siblings, who could be quite
fierce themselves. Renko was young like him and would usually not only let
him get away with tricks but teach him new ones. She’d been a child
prodigy herself.

“That’s only because we’re good,” Akira said with a
mental laugh as the two big birds circled around the hovering dragon. They
all spoke in mental speech, convenient for times when their physical beings
or their circumstances didn’t accommodate physical, audible

“You did spoil our descent, though,” Azuki added.
“Isn’t it good manners for dragons to announce themselves to
avoid interrupting others?” Susu looked abashed.

“I should have,” Susu said. “I’m sorry. I forgot. I
guess I did come in right in the middle. Is it convenient?” That was a
popular dragon greeting. Dragons frequently spontaneously appeared in each
other’s presences without announcing themselves in advance, which few
of them could manage all the time.

Mental speech did not always work for any- and every-one or at different
distances. Dragons vanished promptly if they were told to come back later.
They enjoyed spontaneity and were sometimes impulsive. Susu, formally His
Royal Highness Prince Suoh-Sugaar, certainly was.

“No, but as long as you’re here,” Akira said with a grin
that forgave the dragon child too much and too often, “what can we do
for you?”

“Not for me, but for Brother.” In the Japanese fashion, Susu
usually referred to his relatives by relationship rather than name. He did
have other brothers–both his parents had other children–but when
he said “Brother,” as though it were a name, he invariably meant
the one he was closest to: Prince Irtysh.

“How can we serve His Royal Highness today?” Azuki asked
formally. She’d had just about enough of this childish nonsense. Susu
was old enough to use proper manners!

“Did you know Brother has children?” Susu swiveled to try to
follow the birds’ line of sight. Birds couldn’t hover like
dragons could. “Come land on me!”

Azuki and Akira glanced at each other, then swooped in to circle before
landing on Susu’s broad back.

“I didn’t,” Akira said as he banked,

“I never thought about it,” Azuki admitted. “They
don’t live with him.”

“They’re kind of old,” Susu told them. “Grown-ups.
They all have their own caverns and their own mountains. All over the place.
Galina’s mountain is north of here, really close to Hokkaido!
She’s a princess, too. She’s older than me, but we like to swim
together. I think I’m her uncle.” Susu frowned at this. That
didn’t make sense to him emotionally, though if he worked it out,
intellectually, it did. His brother’s children….

“So Prince Irtysh has children?” Akira decided to move the
original conversation back on track. He positioned himself to land near
where Azuki would light down. While the prince was, by rank, His Royal
Highness, he preferred a lower level of formality from those among the
dual-natured and humans he seemed to consider part of his social circle, if
not his friends. Akira didn’t know if he would ever be able to truly
claim friendship with the suave and sophisticated dragon prince, though he
admired him enormously.

“Five!” Susu said. “He’s talking to them about
those machines he’s building for your refugees! He wants to know how
many you’ll need, so I need to get Tsuruko-san. Then she and
Kichiro-san can come back with us and we can all talk about going to the
Exhibition! It starts in just a few days!”

Susu was a jump ahead of everybody, as he often was, Azuki thought, though
he was frequently misdirected. Tsuruko-san, the Crane-Woman, was working
closely with Her Royal Highness, the Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime. Both
of them joined the fully human Lady Satsuki, her very pregnant daughter,
Anko-sama, and all the rest of them, in helping to resettle refugees
displaced by the Satsuma Rebellion. Azuki didn’t want to think about that.
The Rebellion was coming to its end, and its end would be, inevitably,

“That’s where we’ll find out about the cotton spinning
machine.” Akira nodded. “I want to go, too.”

About the Author

Claire Youmans was captivated the first time she set foot in the Land of
the Rising Sun. After many years of travel to this magical place, the
retired lawyer now lives in Tokyo, exploring and writing fiction and poetry.
During the Meiji Era, Japan leapt from a decaying feudalism to a modern
first world power. How’d they do that? This history holds a key to
understanding Japanese culture and character. Like the ocean, Japan changes
only on the surface while the depths remain the same. Using folklore and
fantasy, Youmans tells this story in an accessible, fun, and exciting way
that reveals and explores the true nature of Japan, a culture that is
unique, quirkly and one she has ultimately come to love.

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#BookBlitz “The Shadows of War (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Series, Book 8)” by Claire Youmans


The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Series, Book 8

Historical Fantasy

Date Published: May 2021

Publisher: american i publishing

Japan, 1877. She fought for her identity. She won her dream. Now she’s not sure she wants it.

How can Toki-girl Azuki abandon what she’s worked so hard to achieve when rebellion threatens to shatter the Japanese Empire’s fragile internal peace and fracture its relations with the outside world?

Her uncle fears she’s causing mysterious events sabotaging her family. Azuki’s dual human-toki nature means something far more ancient and elemental could be at work, if only she can figure out what it is.

Birds teach dragons to dance. Eastern and Western dragons unite even as humans splinter in conflict. A princess wants to help the people she thinks she’s failed. Her small brother can’t keep a dangerous secret. Troops are on the move and tragedy looms as old ways clash with new hopes in Japan and the world.

Can Azuki stop the disruptions plaguing her family and help her nation prosper while trying to survive the rebellion shaking her country’s very soul?

The Shadows of War is the eighth book in the gripping Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, where magical realism collides with historical fantasy in Claire Youmans’ enthralling Tales of the Meiji Era.





One access to Otohime’s caverns was through a lava tube in the crater of Mt. Fuji. Dragons, of course, didn’t need to use it. Non-dragons couldn’t reasonably get there unless in the company of one, or at least none ever had, so it actually served for ventilation. While Renko and Irtysh had deduced the way Ryuujin kept portions of his undersea palace filled with air on a continuous basis, dragons couldn’t create something out of absolutely nothing. They needed materials to work with.

Otohime had simply never thought about making air, not when so much was readily available to her. Even when she was under the sea watching the emerging volcanoes that fascinated her, she had never thought to make air. She just made sure she had an adequate supply before she left and transported more if she needed it. Dragons were diligent and usually acquisitive. They could be creative and artistic. They were not necessarily curious.

Irtysh was both artistic and creative. He was also diligent and a perfectionist. When impelled by the lure of something he wanted to have, or show, or do, he pursued it until he found a way. That wakened his nascent curiosity.

I want to try something,” he said to Otohime. “If you’ll indulge me.” He flourished his wings before tucking them in and made a slight bow.

She looked at him, secure in the seat he had made her, interested. “Something new?” she asked.

Yes and no.” He settled comfortably on the floor of her principle chamber. Quietly, without even thinking about it, he adjusted the rock here and there to give himself a suitable place to recline while in her company. She’d promised to make him a seat, just as he had made her one in his home, but she was still thinking about exactly what she might want. She also planned something to do with water, here, in her audience chamber, but she hadn’t decided on that yet, either.

When we have gone to see your volcanoes,” he reminded her, “we have gone together in your bubble of air. You have propelled us under the surface of the water. We talked about doing this high in the air, using my cloak, or perhaps joining our enclosures together. Would you like to try it?”

Yes!” Otohime didn’t want to tell him about what she’d been learning from Akira just yet, but that had emboldened her. Plus Irtysh always made her feel adventurous. That it was in part because she trusted him enough to feel safe with him didn’t change the fact. “How shall we do it?”

The two dragons, so dissimilar, soared high above Mt. Fuji. The atmosphere thinned, but they didn’t need to bother with that, because their air supplies were carried with them. Irtysh flew within his cloak, using his wings to move the air within and moving his cloak through the thinning atmosphere through that effort. Otohime created currents within her bubble to produce the same effect.

I’ll just be a moment,” Irtysh called, hovering. He reached outside his cloak to gather the bits of matter he needed to build a breathable atmosphere. Next he had to see if he could bring it within his cloak. He could transport it, of course, even from the denser atmosphere of the planet now far below, but he wanted to try building it from what was around him.

What are you doing?” Otohime asked, detecting the minuscule movement of the atmosphere around him.

Making air. It’s taking some time as there’s little to work with here.”

Otohime decided to try that herself. She found she could collect and concentrate the thin atmosphere. She could convey it into her bubble, yes. Irtysh was doing the same thing, she saw, watching his cloak expand.

Our sister,” Irtysh explained, “thinks she knows how his Majesty keeps his undersea chambers filled with air even in his absence. I want to see if I can manage it here.”

It’s not merely transporting air, whether from outside or what we make,” Otohime said, trying it. “I can do that, but I have to pay attention to it. Now that we’ve got the process for making it going, perhaps we can”—

Make a self-sustaining system,” Irtysh interrupted. “That’s what Renko thinks your father does. Do you have any ideas? I want to try this.” He tweaked the transport he’d arranged to make a flow and backed his control away from it.

This might work better.” Otohime duplicated his maneuver, but changed a detail.

Irtysh examined her work. “If we can just expand on this bit here,” he said, demonstrating.

We’ve got it!” Otohime cried, delighted, when she saw how well it worked. “We could have just asked Father, but this is much more fun.”

Do you think he would have told us?” Irtysh grinned.

Otohime grimaced. “I’m not sure. He does like to be the most powerful among dragons.”

As does Mother. They don’t like to give away their secrets, either of them. Shall we try merging our air supplies and joining them? Break off at once if it doesn’t work,” he cautioned.

We’re not too far to transport ourselves down to where we can breathe without bubbles,” Otohime reminded him. “Meet me halfway.”

It was sensuous, even intimate, the way their air containers touched, then merged into a single unit, Irtysh thought. The overlap required control, like trying to fly touching inside wings with end claws gripping while letting their outside wings carry them in synchronicity. He hadn’t tried that since he was a youth! It was exhilarating! Suddenly he felt he could do anything!

So he would.

Otohime? Will you make your currents support my wings and give me something more to push against so I can direct our flight?”

I can do that,” she replied. “Let me know what works best for you.” She thought that supporting his flight would be like supporting her own, but with a broader current, emphasized where his wings pushed. She began to move the air inside their joint bubble. She liked the feeling of their merged enclosure. She knew what it was to hold hands with a human; this was something of the same feeling, only more so in a way she didn’t want to examine at the moment. “Where are we going?”

It’s a surprise,” he said, flexing his strong wings against her air current to propel them onward with increasing speed. “I think we should both continue making air,” he continued. “We’re going further out and there will be even less to work with. In case one of us falters, either of us can keep the atmosphere going long enough to get us to safety.”

Do you think we could combine our atmosphere production?” she asked. That would truly be amazing. She’d never even thought of that before, but it seemed he had. “How?”

Like this,” he said, flashing her a schematic. “But I am not sure it would be safe to do so out here.”

Otohime recoiled when she first saw the diagram in her mind, but then she examined it carefully, fascinated. It was not only amazing, she realized, but such a joining of purpose and action would require a mental intimacy that went far beyond anything she had ever experienced, not even with her siblings when they worked and played together. It was deeper. It was more. More like what lovers might do, if they only could. Didn’t he realize that? What was he asking of her? What did he want? Then she remembered: he, of course, had never loved a human and she, despite her age, had never loved a dragon.

Around her, what she saw grew dark, punctuated with points of light she recognized as stars, more of them than she had ever seen, surrounding her, going on forever until they vanished in a faint mist of light. Brighter spheres were planets, some of which she recognized. And there—she saw the sun, glowing with a fiery rim she had only previously seen during eclipses, with occasional jets of flame shooting out of it that must extend many thousands of ri to be visible from here. More stars spread out before her, a glowing waterfall of sparkling light, running thick where the Amanogawa seemed to flow, truly a river of stars.

Mesmerized, she watched, nearly falling into the vastness of the universe around them, barely noticing where Irtysh was carrying them as her currents of air lifted his wings. Because of the way they flew and the need to make air currents, when she looked straight ahead, she could only see his dark hide, so she looked to the stars, at the points of light that seemed to never end. She had no idea how long they had traveled or how far when she felt herself vanish, pulled along through the ether by Irtysh transporting them both until they appeared with a thunk on something solid, their joint atmospheric container surrounding them.

They were on solid ground, she saw. It wasn’t, but it looked like the inside of the Fuji crater more than anywhere else Otohime had ever been. Dust, rocks, what looked like ash and little pits where rocks had struck. She could tell from a quick scan outside the container in which they stood that there was precious little in the way of atmospheric building blocks outside.

Otohime. Look!”

Her gaze followed Irtysh’s extended wing. Otohime gasped. Rising in the sky ahead of them was a huge blue object, white swirls circling around its surface. It was magnificent in its beauty. She regarded it with wonder for a moment then turned to look at the Western dragon.

He looked tired, but sublimely satisfied.

Where are we?” she said. ‘What is that?”

He smiled. “We are on the moon, and that is the Earth. I said I would bring you to the moon, and with your help, I have done so.” He bowed. “Do you like it?”

It is more splendid than I ever would have thought.” She bowed in return. “Irtysh, thank you.”

He essayed another bow in response, and she could see from the droop of his wings that the journey really had tired him.

Let us simply admire it for a while,” Otohime said. “You give me the most incredible things, and I am grateful.”

They rested on the lunar surface, watching the earth rise. Otohime pointed out the weather patterns. Irtysh found he had no trouble recognizing them because of something Ryuujin had said about enjoying watching weather from the upper atmosphere. Ryuujin would enjoy doing that even more from here, Irtysh thought, but wasn’t sure he would ever tell the Dragon King about this! This was a gift for Otohime. Fascinated, he watched the cloud formations circle themselves and move across the surface of the planet. He could distinguish land masses but couldn’t tell what they were. It was all so beautiful. He felt himself growing stronger, but though he felt he could easily take them home, he didn’t want to. Not yet.


He looked at the Eastern Dragon Princess he found in all ways beautiful and smiled gently.

I have been learning to dance the way the eagles dance in the air on the earth.”

He tilted his great head, encouraging her to continue.

I don’t do it very well yet, but I have memories and images I can project. We should be able to do it from within our joint bubble if we work together like we did to come here.” She extended her whiskers and beckoned an invitation.

Irtysh, will you dance with me?”



Other books in the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series:

Coming Home

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book One


Chasing Dreams

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Two



The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Three


Uncle Yuta has an Adventure

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Four


Noriko’s Journey

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Five


The Dragon Sisters

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Six


The Eagle and the Sparrow

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Seven



About the Author

Claire Youmans first went to Japan in 1992 and was immediately captivated. After years of travel and study, she continues to be charmed and amazed by a fascinating history and a culture that’s both endearingly quirky and entirely unique.

In 2014, she started Tales of the Meiji Era with The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy’s unparalleled blend of historical fantasy and magical realism in Coming Home. She continues exploring the combination of history and folklore to share her love and fascination with a very different country and culture.

Exciting adventures continue to unfold in this delightful fantastical yet historical world as social and political changes expand, technology explodes, and two very unusual children grow up.

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