The Plum Rain Scroll

If you enjoyed reading my Samurai Kids series you are almost certain to like The Plum Rain Scroll by Australian author Ruth Manley. This timeless tale of Old Japan, steeped in the magic of traditional folklore, was the CBCA Younger Readers Book of the Year in 1979. It is the first title in a trilogy which also includes The Dragon Lantern and The Peony Lantern.

There is an excellent series overview here on the Ensovaari Embassy portal site and my review of The Plum Rain Scroll follows below:

Plum Rain Scroll – Ruth Manley – Paperback – Junior/Young Adult $18.95 – Australian – UQP Press

The Plum Rain Scroll was first published in 1979 but will immediately appeal to today’s young fantasy lovers. This is an unusual story. While it reads like an authentic Japanese folk tale, it is a work of Western imagination. Queensland author, Ruth Manley, loved Japanese culture, history and literature, and it shows in her writing.

The hero, thirteen-year-old Taro, is an orphan odd job boy who lives with Aunt Piety and Uncle Thunder. It’s a strange household and they are living in peculiar times. Marishoten, the evil Black Iris Lord is preparing to overthrow the Mikado and enslave the world. Taro can see it in his dreams.

But first Marishoten must find the Plum Rain Scroll and uncover its secrets – immortality, the ability to turn metal into gold and the Unanswerable Word which paralyses enemies. The scroll’s whereabouts is unknown and only Aunt Piety can translate it. Then Aunt disappears too.

Taro and his companions; Prince Hachi (Lord Eight Thousand Spears), a ghost named Hiroshi, an Oni monster with a taste for poetry, a Roof Watcher creature and a young girl named Oboro and her strange dog; set off to find the scroll, rescue Aunty and save the Chrysanthemum throne.

The Plum Rain Scroll is peopled with eccentric characters such as Lord Sweet Potato, who spreads sweet potato seeds across Japan, but no-one laughs – because he’s also very good with a sword. Hiroshi is a samurai ghost – honourable and brave – except when it comes to umbrellas. He’s terrified of them.

The tone is both exotic and unfamiliar, as befits a story from another time and place. In ancient Idzumo, unusual is the usual state of affairs.

This is a wonderfully innocent tale of good triumphing over evil, of legend coming to life. Best suited to younger readers 8 -12 years and fantasy lovers, the story has a cultural sophistication that will also lure young adult and adult readers with an interest in ancient cultures and folklore.

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