Loved it. This is another instance of where my reaction to a book has totally fried the wires in my brain that make for a useful review. So short and sweet, here it goes. This books plays so many cards at the same time that it a total immersion. The characterizations are awesome--even secondary and tertiary characters are brilliant little gems. The suspense is well written and fair warning, for those that can't handle or prefer not to read violence/torture, this book may not be for you. That said, it is intrinsic to the story, the characters and their resolutions--it is not gratuitous.I loved all the references, lingual and cultural, to Japan and present society. The hierarchy and explanations for expectations of behavior as required by status and origin are fascinating. The expected behavior from Ken (Kenshin) as a foreigner is completely different than that required of a native. I ended up loving the guys in the Shinayawa clan. Brutal and at times unvarnished, but honest and loyal--well...except for the viper in their midst that manages to stir up a lot of trouble and pain.