In 2016, one of FSG Originals’ most ambitious and rewarding challenges was the publication of all four volumes of Lian Hearn’s Tale of Shikanoko across the course of the year. With the publication of Tengu’s Game of Go, the set is now complete. And—just to toot our own horn for a moment, excuse us—it is glorious to behold, utterly gorgeous and deeply satisfying, inside and out.
Just look at them!
Really look at them! The foil, the embossing, the texture, and the stunning art by Yuko Shimizu...
And the spines, look at those spines!
The wave, building across each volume…
It might just be the perfect collaboration between designer (Alex Merto) and illustrator, applied to the ideal project.
And while we’re dishing out superlatives, we shouldn’t forget Lian Hearn’s text itself. Much has been written about Shikanoko over the course of its publication. The Japan Times appropriately wraps things up in terrific Charley Locke piece in Wired covering the books’ serial publication, and also an NPR piece, positing The Tale of Shikanoko as a literary answer to Netflix binge-watching. But still perhaps our favorite write-up is Barnes & Noble’s early write-up of the series, which celebrated its
breadth of scale, ideas, and adventure that rivals any other fantasy for its pure ambition and sheer pleasure. It may be one of the most challenging, rewarding new fantasies you read this year.
But finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you back to this piece in Electric Literature, in which a group of four writers—Toby Barlow, Nicola Griffith, Kelly Luce (this appears be her at this year’s Electric Literature Genre Ball dressed as Shikanoko!), and Robin Sloan—approached Shikanoko from a variety of angles: as fantastical, imaginative literary fiction; as a historical novel; as writing about Japan; and more, all trying to get at just what it is that makes these books work so well, what makes them tick the way they do. And ultimately they were joined by Lian Hearn herself, who mused:
I like to think I write in a genre of my own. It’s true that neither fantasy writers nor literary fiction writers have ever really accepted me as one of them. Maybe this is one of the consequences. Maybe the books are too easy to read, too much fun.
We think these are good problems to have. Let us be thankful for them.