Cynthia Radthorne Reviews



A sampling of what some very nice folks have said about the The Road to Bakara

  "Very soon after you begin this tale, you realize you are in the hands of a story teller, a writer who draws you in and pulls you along not with flamboyant prose nor with pyrotechnic action but with characters you can identify with, problems that you understand, and enough twists and turns to unsettle your complacency along the way. In fantasy, there are writers who do not win the prizes but deliver stories that you want to finish, that make you want to see what happens next, that guarantee their name on a book will cause you to pick it up to examine the contents. They build your trust. With your trust comes your loyalty. With this first novel, Radthorne makes that happen.

The story unfolds against an Asian backdrop, the language suggesting Japan but the society not resembling anything we are used to seeing as Japanese. You will find no Shogun nor any Samurai running loose, no ninjas plotting subversion, no Geishas tempting the hero. What you will find in addition to the language is a religious order that values knowledge and understanding, trains its acolytes to participate in the world in all its facets, and provides three of the central characters in the story. The order reminds me of the Shao Lin of “Kung Fu” fame with David Carradine playing the monk. But the resemblance between those Shao Lin and Radthorne’s Deshi is in mood and not substance, in reverence and spirituality but not life style. The Deshi wish to instruct the world, to share their knowledge where Carradine’s Shao Lin wished to retreat from it...

Radthorne presents the information both clearly and obscurely never hiding what she is up to but always viewing it through a sheer curtain that deflects the reader’s attention. Nominally, the tale concerns a quest to find the hero necessary to save Togonato from an impending peril. In a satisfying manner, the quest succeeds but that is not the real story. This a coming-of-age story. The leads are both young and both travel across Togonato on journeys of self-discovery. Both characters mature in logical ways, achieving understanding and acceptance of themselves through hardship and adventure, with and without the assistance of friends. How they come to be who they come to be is the heart of the story...

Be prepared to be engrossed, to be puzzled at turns and delighted at others. Be prepared to submit yourself into the hands of a story teller and know that you are going to lose hours and hours basking in her magic." - Dan Bieger,


"What do a humble apprentice and a headstrong princess have in common? Not a lot - until they embark on parallel quests that test them unmercifully and take them deep into strange, magical lands. Shiko, the apprentice, is chosen to lead a pilgrimage to find the Kotanshi - someone who can unite the kingdoms of Tonogato against an evil force that grows stronger by the day. Mikasama, the princess, pursues the pilgrims and a forbidden love, but the call of a magical city on the other side of Tonogato drags her inexorably on as initial desire wanes. Dominating the pilgrimage is the ultimate bad guy - a tyrannical, cruel Lord already in the grip of darker forces. He is the roaming wild card, capable of heinous atrocities at any moment. The desires, trials and unfolding secrets of these characters draw the reader in and drive the story on as the main plot, the quest to find the Kotanshi, builds around and through them.

Despite a resemblance to historical Japanese culture, Tonogato is unlike any earthly world. Each kingdom is increasingly exotic, and all roads lead to Teranashi - a city of spectacular towers precisely controlled by magic and those who possess it. The mental images of these kingdoms and characters will linger in the mind of the reader long after he puts this book down.

This novel is Radthorne’s impressive debut. It starts quietly, and the unusual cast names require a little concentration on the part of the reader. The intensity and complexity build, especially in the latter half of the tale, proving that Radthorne is a writer to be trusted. She has taken the traditional fantasy quest, with all the loyalty, betrayal, transformation and destiny that that implies, and woven it into an intricate, complex, Japanese scroll with just enough silken threads left to lead readers back to the lands of Tonogato" - Bren MacDibble, Sci Fi Dimensions


"Radthorne creates a decidedly Asian-inspired fantasy world with her debut novel, with scenery, character attitudes, and underlying themes reminiscent of ancient Japan. Shiko, a young apprentice of a Buddhist-like religion, and the headstrong Princess Mikasama each follow different paths across the land of Tonogato in search of a way to save their world from gathering evil. Radthorne manages to tie their two story threads together with a satisfying conclusion... a refreshing change from the medieval European setting so common in fantasy novels and an overall good read." - Bridget Coila, Talebones Magazine, Issue #31


"I happened upon this book on Amazon and decided to give it a try. This is a visual journey through a book, with sweeping vistas that come alive with the author's beautiful imagery. It's a story of juxtapositions - from the point of view of the young acolyte Shiko, to the older wisdom of her mentor Toshi-Hito as they start their pilgrimage from the city state of Hajameshi to find the Kotanshi - the individual which will unite all of the fractured city states in Tonogato and save them from the coming Darkness. Another pairing are the would be lovers of the Hajameshi princess Mikasama and her dashing Captain Nakama, and what happens when the powers that be rip them apart from one another. There's jealousy, anger, revenge and hope in this story. There are other characters who get introduced along the way - some quite evil and manipulative, others cruel and uncaring, and still more who are only interested in their own bit of the world without care to the rest of it around them. Plus those who look beyond their tiny piece of the world to what's beyond and how they can move to stop what might be the inevitable from occurring.

This story is Asian inspired, yet a world of its own as you see from the journey the pilgrims take, along with those others that they encounter. There is magic, mysticism and magical creatures that abound in the world of Tonogato and Ms Radthorne does an excellent job of character development. Even the most minor characters have a backstory that is woven into the narrative and adds a richness to the story as it progresses.

Like all epic journeys, the pilgrimage it fraught with danger, both to those or the party and others who seek to stop them or follow after them. Throughout it all, we see the growth of the characters as they progress. Without giving all of the storyline away, it is a journey worth taking with these characters. You'll find it well worth the trek to take it - I bought the other two books in this series before finishing this one and look forward to seeing what the next part of the story entails now that I've finished this first book.

A definite buy recommendation from me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.- Musicfan, reviewed in the United States on February 29, 2020


"I read this book some time ago and just took it down from the shelf to look at something on the cover that caught my attention. Now I find myself reading it again! There are two story lines and they are interwoven beautifully. As you move between the stories you are left dying to know what is happening in the other thread. It turns you into a compulsive page turner (even the second time around). I recommend this book highly!" - Linda Iserneau from Littleton, CO USA


"Radthorne is a true storyteller, intricately weaving the individual characters into a single complex tapestry. Like a small brook at the beginning, the novel quickly turns into a raging river that will carry the reader along to the end. All throughout Radthorne keeps her religions and mythos straight and true, deepening the world with each page. There are so many layers, each artfully described, that I anticipate reading the novel a second time in the not so distant future. This is just the sort of book that gets better with each reading. " - Seth Kerin


"I just finished "The Road to Bakara"...a very, very good book, one I can easily recommend to others. I think the thing I liked best was that the main character was not just another warrior or magician but a Deshi novice, dedicated to knowledge and enlightenment. And she didn't survive her trials and win because she had grown into a meaner fighting machine than everybody else, or because she had acquired some legendary magical sword, or even just because she was destined to. She won mainly because she used her head. I liked that." - Nicolai from Denmark


And  about The Sands of Sabakushi

  "This is the second of the tales of Tonogato intended to conclude the business begun in The Road to Bakara. After applauding the first tale, it will come as no surprise that I found this tale equally satisfying for many of the same reasons and for two unique to this tale. Radthorne continues as a master story teller briskly pacing her story’s action as well as the revelations necessary to support the action, carrying the reader along at breakneck pace while managing to insert the necessary explanatory detail wherever it is needed...

Radthorne draws these characters with skill and caring. The reader is never caught short wondering how something happened or why this person reacted that way... I have rarely read a better examination of character than the battle Shiko conducts within herself. Each of the criticisms she must endure and then refute resonates with me. I could see her misery, understand it, and admire how she sustained herself throughout. Consider the power of “Do you think evil is some ‘thing’ that can be perceived? That it can be picked up, held in one’s hand, and then discarded at will. No, evil comes from within.….You cannot banish that, Shiko. Not until you banish humanity itself.” Evil is a process, not a thing.

Part and parcel of his story is Radthorne’s thought, her sensibilities. She writes of the human condition with sympathy and admiration, giving the reader something to be concerned with as well as something to cheer for. As I have said before, read this story. Be prepared to be engrossed, to be puzzled at turns and delighted at others. Be prepared to submit yourself into the hands of a story teller and know that you are going to lose hours and hours basking in her magic." - Dan Bieger,


"The Sands of Sabakushi picks up at the end of the Road to Bakura, taking you deeper into the story of the darkness and those who fight together to save the world of Tonogato. Our characters of Shiko and Makashima still have a ways to go, and in this book they each have a journey of self-discovery which leads them to an inevitable fight with those who seek to stop them. Evil is leaking through the cracks of their world and seeks to stop our heroines from succeeding in their mission.

What I love about this series and in this book in particular is the rich characterizations that bring each of the people to life. No matter how small the role, from a servant in Hajameshi to Shiko's animal companions on her journey, they have rich detail and the deft strokes of color which breath life into each one. Shiko journeys through the length of Tonogato in search of an item that will help fight the darkness. Meanwhile Mikasama has her own trials to go through, some of which are life threatening to herself and those she holds dear. Each has an important role in the future and each have a rough road to get where they need to be. There are other journeys throughout this story that need to come together for the ending to not be an utter disaster for our heroines and watching those threads weave together is engrossing for the reader.

One thing I liked about this is that the bad guys are really bad - they really have no redeemable features. And that's okay. Tor'yan is one such character who delights in what he does - he works for his Great One, and has no scrap of sympathy or humanity at all within him. You can believe that he has the power of personality to drive the nomadic tribes of Sabakushi to war. I enjoyed the interactions of Tor'yan as the leader with the wizard Wochu (formerly of Teranashi) for the moments of humor as well as for Wochu's insights to Tor'yan's actions as a warrior and a leader.

And as they all struggle along their paths, the Darkness works to win free, and destroy the world as they know it. Does it succeed, or will they prevail? Only reading will tell you the answer, and I do think it is well worth reading."  - Musicfan, reviewed in the United States on March 21, 2020


And  about The Pool of Shikama


"The Pool of Shikama takes place more than a generation from the previous two books, focusing on the children and grandchildren of Mikasama, Shiko and Shudojo. The fragile alliance that began in The Sands of Sabakushi is falling apart without those people who had forged it to keep it together, and the generation to follow our previous heroes have a hard time living up to the legacy that they inherited. There is Domisen, the Kujuro of Hajameshi, Satora, the abbott of Bakara and Amaya, Shodandin of Teranashi - all who are flawed from their upbringing by mothers whose jobs of running their respective domains took all of their attention from raising their children. In each case it shows, and it takes the next generation of Kisami, Tashika and Yuri to bring some sort of balance back through their actions over the course of this book.

This story, like its predecessors, focuses on the damage of one's actions can have on a land, it's people and those that had come to help fight the Darkness in the past. It shows that fear of one's own actions from the past can affect the present, and how you may have to lean into those fears to get past them and change the present and future. It's a story of obsessions, denial and sacrifice for the greater good. And it can be heart wrenching at times to see the characters go through their stories as they fight to help others survive the mistakes of the past and the damage that it has wrought on their world as well as that of the Shinzin.

There are those characters for whom greed and revenge are more important, to the detriment of all else, and those for whom selfless sacrifice for others shines through as a light to the others. This book, like the others before it is beautifully written and ends up being a fitting closure for this trilogy."- Musicfan, reviewed in the United States on April 5, 2020