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Thirteenth-century Japan is a dangerous place, even in a time of peace. Capricious gods, shape-changing animals, and bloodthirsty demons are as real and unpleasant as a gang of vicious bandits. From the wilderness emerges a young, idealistic warrior with his father’s mysterious sword on his hip, a wise, sarcastic dog at his side, and a yearning in his heart to find a worthy master. He dreams only of being samurai. Little does he suspect the agony and glory that await him when his dreams come true.

Finding a master should be easy for a warrior as skilled as Ken’ishi, but the generations-long wars for the Imperial throne have ended. The land has settled into an uneasy peace and cast multitudes of proud, powerful warriors to the four winds. The new peace means that these masterless warriors, ronin, often must stoop to crime and banditry to feed themselves. Ken’ishi finds himself plagued by the hatred and mistrust of peasants and samurai alike.

When he saves a noble maiden from a pack of bandits, he and his faithful dog become enmeshed in the intrigues of samurai lords, vengeful constables, Mongol spies, and a shadowy underworld crime boss known as Green Tiger. But Ken’ishi has a few secret weapons of his own, granted to him by his mysterious past and his magical upbringing. If only he knew more about his mysterious past, his parents’ murder, and the sword that seems to want to talk to him. . . .

Heart of the Ronin is an action-packed historical fantasy, set against the backdrop of ancient intrigue and impending war, the first of a sweeping three-part epic filled with deadly duels and climactic battles. Creatures of folklore and myth are as real as the katana in one’s hand. And just as deadly.

"A fusion of historical fiction and adventure fantasy, the first volume of Heermann's Ronin Trilogy is a page-turning folkloric narrative of epic proportions. In a strange, supernatural feudal Japan, 17-year-old warrior Ken'ishi, a masterless samurai with a mysterious past and a legendary sword, saves the life of Kazuko, a powerful lord's daughter. Soon he becomes entangled in a deadly web of treachery, obsession and vengeance along with a bevy of conspirators, spies, assassins and otherworldly monstrosities. Though Heermann does little to push the boundaries of the subgenre, his writing style is confident and fluid, his characters are well developed and his serpentine story line anything but predictable. Numerous tantalizingly unresolved plot threads will have readers anxiously awaiting the second installment in this gripping tale of ill-fated love, betrayal and destiny. " - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"Heart of a Ronin is a solid, likeable adventure story, sure to please fans of Japanese culture, and fantasy readers alike." - ADVENTURES IN SCI-FI PUBLISHING

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  • Welcome to the debut episode of the Heart of the Ronin podcast. In this episode, Ken’ishi, a young masterless samurai with his father’s ancient sword on hip, and Akao, Ken’ishi’s faithful dog, wander into a village, and quickly run afoul of an ill-tempered constable with a past.

  • In this episode, Ken’ishi and the angry constable, Takenaga, a member of the Nishimuta clan, face off in a deadly duel.

  • In previous episodes, the young ronin Ken'ishi and his dog Akao hide in the countryside from the angry villagers and contemplate their next move. But there are forces at work beyond his knowledge.

  • Ken’ishi recalls an encounter with a cruel drunken samurai in the capital, wherein he learned a few tantalizing clues about the possible history of his sword, Silver Crane.

  • Ken'ishi stumbles upon the scene of a brutal melee. A gang of bandits, led by a horrible oni, a demon, has waylaid the entourage of a noble maiden.

  • Ken'ishi and Kazuko face the deadly oni, the demon-bandit Hakamadare. But even if they survive, does he dare to tell her that he recently killed one of the members of her clan, Takenaga, in a duel?

  • Taro, the young deputy from Uchida Village, searches for the ronin who murdered his master. Ken'ishi and Kazuko must take the badly injured Hatsumi to safety, to somewhere she can be healed and purified.

  • Ken'ishi and Kazuko continue their trek to deliver Hatsumi to safety, but the attraction between them starts to grow. Meanwhile, Yasutoki, a.k.a. Green Tiger, encounters a parade celebrating the death of the oni known as Hakamadare.

  • Ken’ishi and Kazuko seek a healer for the injured Hatsumi and look for a priest that they might all be purified from the taint of death and the oni’s blood. As they travel, sparks begin to crackled between them.

  • Ken'ishi, Kazuko, and Hatsumi arrive at a village, where they find a priest who agrees to heal Hatsumi, and purify them all from the taint of evil on their spirits.

  • Yasutoki puts his espionage scheme into action, meeting with a mysterious figure known only as Kage, "Shadow."

  • Ken'ishi has a horrible nightmare, some of which might prove to be prophetic. He also recounts for Kazuko a tale of his childhood and his strange, mystical teacher.

  • Ken'ishi recounts a tale for Kazuko of his first encounter with human society since he was a baby. It is not a pleasant experience.

  • Taro continues his pursuit of the ronin, even though something strange is happening with the wound he suffered by getting too close to the oni's remains.

  • As Hatsumi slowly recovers from her grievous injuries, the darkness in her thoughts and in her heart grows, until, for the first time, a rift appears in her relationship with Kazuko. Hatsumi's dislike and distrust of Ken'ishi seem unreasonable and excessive, but is this change in her temper a result of the oni's attack or does originate within herself?

  • Ken'ishi recounts another tale of childhood travails as they reach the final stretch of road to Kazuko's family estate, the domain of Lord Nishimuta no Jiro.

  • Ken'ishi has finally brought Kazuko and Hatsumi safely home, but what he had dreamed would an auspicious, joyous event turns into a dangerous debacle.

  • Ken'ishi and Kazuko have been torn apart the surprise announcement of her betrothal to Lord Tsunetomo, and Ken'ishi has been ordered to leave the province under pain of death. But Kazuko has other designs.

  • Ken’ishi flees the domain of the Nishimuta clan, under threat of torture and execution if he ever returns. However, just as he begins his journey, he encounters the young deputy from Uchida village, Taro.

  • Kazuko has accepted her fate and married Lord Tsunetomo but a yearning remains in her heart that she cannot dispel. And she does not yet realize that she is neck-deep in the machinations of a master schemer, Yasutoki.

  • Ken’ishi and Akao wander into a secluded fishing village. Months have passed since his liaison with Kazuko, but she is ever on his mind. During some New Year celebration, a local fisherman flies into a drunken rage and kills the village constable in a dispute with a prostitute. Ken’ishi steps in to defend her from the cruel drunken fisherman.

  • Ken'ishi assumes the post of constable of Aoka village, but he faces deep mistrust from the other villagers. Kiose, on the other hand, seems to have taken an immediate like to him.

  • Yasutoki receives his first round of intelligence from the spy known only as Kage. Ken'ishi's feelings for Kiose lead him to discuss her future as a prostitute in Tetta's inn, but something is wrong in the village, a nameless presence that raises Ken'ishi's sense of danger.

  • Tetta, the innkeeper, mysterious disappears from Aoka village. Ken'ishi sets out to investigate, but, fearing reprisal against Kiose by the vengeful sons of Yoba, the slain fisherman, he takes Kiose with him into the forest. Meanwhile, Taro has joined the Koga Sword Academy, but it is apparent that something dark and deadly is happening to him.

  • Ken’ishi, Kiose, and Akao venture into the forest, in search of the missing innkeeper. During their trek, Kiose drops some powerful news on Ken’ishi.

  • Hatsumi's cruelty and ill-temper have grown to such proportions that all the house servants now hate her, and Kazuko admonishes her for after a particularly cruel and irrational incident. Meanwhile, Yasutoki schemes and schemes, and his espionage bears powerful fruit.

  • Ken'ishi and Norikage confront a mysterious stranger in Aoka village. Taro, having learned the ways of the sword and slaughtered two sword academies worth of students in his bloodlust, continues his search for Ken'ishi.

  • Another mysterious disappearance in the village drives Ken'ishi to put his own life at risk to find the cause, and he uses himself as bait in his own trap. And uncovers something no one expected.

  • As Kiose struggles in the throes of childbirth, Ken'ishi meets an unexpected nemesis in a battle to the death.

  • Kazuko finally begins to settle herself into her new life, wondering about Ken'ishi and future. Yasutoki's schemes of espionage and betrayal finally come together and he prepares to hand his homeland over to Mongol conquerors.

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