Hidden gem among early 90s Fantasy: In an Asian-inspired world, everybody has a kazuh: a talent, one of 52, that they discover and then hone to the point of genius, by entering a deep flow state. The protagonist, Kami, belongs to a family of acrobats, but clearly acrobatics are not his kazuh. This doesn’t make him crippled or outcast or anything, he’s just less good at some things than his father and his siblings.
Acrobats are slightly special in the rigid class hierarchy of this world, because while they belong to the peasant class, they play for and interact with the nobles – who can, if they want, have them killed on a whim. Fun. When a murder happens while they perform for a local noble, a standard mystery begins – but I’ll forgive it for being a mystery, because it’s more fantasy than mystery, and the worldbuilding is just delightful.
How about the fact that castle guards have to have a good singing voice, because guests are traditionally announced in four-part harmony (as are sudden alarms)? And seing traditional professions with their own kazuh, for example the smith, was just enjoyable and fun. Kazuh runners can run nearly limitless as long as their kazuh is raised (which, as any flow state, of course isn’t sustainable indefinitely).
I’m not one for mysteries, and I tried to ignore the romance (not bad, just a bit YA-y), which mostly serves the purpose of driving class hierarchy home.
Overall an enjoyable light read. There’s a second book to the series, which I probably won’t get around to. No more than that – the series was not successful enough at first, and then the author died.