The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Series, Book 9
Historical Fantasy, Japan, Paranormal
Date Published: April 2022
Publisher: American I Publishing
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
“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
“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.