Book Review: Samurai by Stephen Turnbull.


Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (25 Aug. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1472813723

As the author lays out in the introduction, this is a romp through Samurai History. From their origins to the Meiji restoration. Put better it’s a richly illustrated romp. It’s a showy number with a ferocious but colourful samurai on the cover and a book I would happily lay out on a coffee table. It’s small, so maybe a side table would be more appropriate but this seems to form a part of a new general hardback series by osprey, focusing on other famous warriors in history.
Turnbull can probably write a book like this in his sleep. It’s full of swashbuckling tales of samurai, Daymios, castles and battles.
It captures the flavour of the authentic samurai, while at the same time losing nothing of the colour and entertainment one associates with feudal Japan. Interspersed into the main text are interesting focus points that discuss, sword making, legends, and different points of interest. Best of all this book is superbly illustrated with contemporary Japanese woodcut and paintings. Wonderful photographs of Japanese castles and a selection of Angus McBride artwork drawn from already published titles in Osprey’s samurai catalogue. The samurai were always eager to be first into the fight, and the book speeds on into the fray, hitting all the high points such as the Gempei Wars and the invasion of Korea, of course general samurai book is complete without a chunk on the Sengoku jidai. All the attendant figures are present and correct, Taira’s, Minamoto’s, Hidéyoshi’s and Tokogowa’s not least Takamori and the drama of the Satsuma rebellion.
This is a book for fans and enthusiasts alike. I’d be so bold as to hazard that anyone who enjoys samurai history would like it in their library. It’s light reading, and doesn’t lag at all. It would serve just as well as an introduction to the subject as it would an addition to a history lover’s shelf.
All the main points of a samurai life are covered, and in pleasing symmetry all tend to interlace into one picture. A familiar one but no less detailed. As such it is an excellent quick reference, for those times when you want to find out the difference between different types of armour. Or whether one would use a yari or a naginata in a given situation, perhaps you might just want to get a quick background to the 47 Ronin or find the answer to the nagging question, whether it is appropriate to commit suicide if your boss dies?


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