Sato and Yukie are brother and sister, the two youngest children of the Hanaken samurai family. After a failed coup against their lord, Takayama, they brutally enter adulthood when their parents, and head of the conspiracy, are forced to commit seppuku, the ritual suicide. As full-fledged samurai, the young Hanaken have three duties : serving their lord, serving their family and fighting when required.
Sato is sent to his father’s former assistant to be trained as a swordmaster. He befriends a young crippled boy who becomes Sato’s first student. Meanwhile, Yukie must live in Takayama’s mansion as a token of her family’s good will and honorable behavior. She soon discovers however that her remaining family intends to use her in a revenge plot against lord Takayama. She is willing to play her part, until she really comes to know Takayama. He is the only one, apart from her late father, to support her dream of becoming a warrior, which is neither an unheard of destiny for a female samurai, nor a common one.
As time passes, the two young Hanaken uncover the true motivation of their parents’ coup. After the shock, they have to choose sides : will they pursue the revenge plotted by their siblings or will they submit to Takayama’s authority. Meanwhile, a war is brewing and they need protectors if they want to survive it.
Ultimately, Sato and Yukie settle their inner struggle and come to terms with their parents’ treason. They realize it is possible to honor their parents’ legacy and memory without following in their footsteps. In the end, Sato’s and Yukie’s actions restore the Hanaken family honor.
The book takes place in a fictional village of feudal Japan, circa 1540, and features only fictional characters. However, they are inspired by real historical anecdotes and the culture of feudal Japan is depicted as accurately as possible without slowing down the pace of the adventure or becoming too technical for young readers. Hanaken, legacy of the sword is a coming of age story as well as the kind of historical novel that charms adults and teenagers alike.
This book is the first one of a trilogy, but they can be read independently since the stories are years apart. The first book focuses on the path to adulthood and conflict of loyalties.