Hikotaro turned to his stepfather and said, “Take me with you.”
Storm Rider attempts to semi-fictionalize the true story behind Hikotaro (aka Joseph Heco), a thirteen-year-old boy living in 1850 Japan. His father died when he was an infant and his mother passed away a few months before his thirteenth birthday. Finding himself without obligation or purpose, Hikotaro took up sailing like his merchant stepfather and became lost at sea. He was saved by a passing American trader ship, propelling him toward a life straddling two very different cultures during a period of turbulent transformation for both the United States and Japan.
Given the setting for Wolf’s Tail, I was very excited about this book. Unfortunately, Storm Rider is an example of a fantastic story told poorly. The first 20 pages and final 20 pages held promise, but everything in between seemed to be more of a story told than a story dramatized. Yoshimura has certainly done his research, but my expectation for Storm Rider was that it was a novel. Instead it resembled unadorned, pieced-together memoirs.
With constant changes in viewpoint, and a lack of plot and characterization, Hikotaro’s story wasn’t as emotionally powerful as it could have been. Some reviewers say this may be due to the translation and since I can’t read Japanese, I can’t argue for or against that point, but they all seem to agree the book didn’t live up to its potential.
For those interested in a unique bit of history, I’d recommend checking out Storm Rider. Just know what you’re getting into. If you’re looking for a dramatic work, I advise skipping this one.