The very beginning of The Disfavored Hero directly states that this is an alternate Japan (Naipon) where myth is real. This is something that should never be said in a novel. Let your creation stand on its own feet, and show us what you’re doing.

Thankfully, after that little hiccup, the rest of the book is very good. It’s broken into three parts (without any shorter chapters), that are practically separate novellas. Each one has its own set of secondary characters, its own plot with solid beginning, middle, and end, that lends the book an episodic quality and makes it almost a short story collection. At the same time, the beginning of the book sets up a conflict that is not resolved until the epilogue, and ties the book together. The problem is that while this drives the circumstances of the middle of the novel, it doesn’t drive any of the action, which just adds to the episodic feel.

Past that, the actual writing is very good, with a lot of the feel of older Japanese literature and tales (at least from what little I’ve seen). My kindle edition retains several nice illustrations (also done in an appropriate style), so that is also recommended.