Cynthia Radthorne Reviews



A sampling of what some very nice folks have said about the original edition of The Road to Bakara

  "Very soon after you begin this tale, you realize you are in the hands of a story teller, a writer who draws you in and pulls you along not with flamboyant prose nor with pyrotechnic action but with characters you can identify with, problems that you understand, and enough twists and turns to unsettle your complacency along the way. In fantasy, there are writers who do not win the prizes but deliver stories that you want to finish, that make you want to see what happens next, that guarantee their name on a book will cause you to pick it up to examine the contents. They build your trust. With your trust comes your loyalty. With this first novel...Radthorne makes that happen.

The story unfolds against an Asian backdrop, the language suggesting Japan but the society not resembling anything we are used to seeing as Japanese. You will find no Shogun nor any Samurai running loose, no ninjas plotting subversion, no Geishas tempting the hero. What you will find in addition to the language is a religious order that values knowledge and understanding, trains its acolytes to participate in the world in all its facets, and provides three of the central characters in the story. The order reminds me of the Shao Lin of “Kung Fu” fame with David Carradine playing the monk. But the resemblance between those Shao Lin and Radthorne’s Deshi is in mood and not substance, in reverence and spirituality but not life style. The Deshi wish to instruct the world, to share their knowledge where Carradine’s Shao Lin wished to retreat from it...

Radthorne presents the information both clearly and obscurely never hiding what she is up to but always viewing it through a sheer curtain that deflects the reader’s attention. Nominally, the tale concerns a quest to find the hero necessary to save Togonato from an impending peril. In a satisfying manner, the quest succeeds but that is not the real story. This a coming-of-age story. The male and female leads are both young and both travel across Togonato on journeys of self-discovery. Both characters mature in logical ways, achieving understanding and acceptance of themselves through hardship and adventure, with and without the assistance of friends. How they come to be who they come to be is the heart of the story...

Be prepared to be engrossed, to be puzzled at turns and delighted at others. Be prepared to submit yourself into the hands of a story teller and know that you are going to lose hours and hours basking in her magic." - Dan Bieger,


"What do a humble apprentice monk and a headstrong princess have in common? Not a lot - until they embark on parallel quests that test them unmercifully and take them deep into strange, magical lands. Shiko, the apprentice, is chosen to lead a pilgrimage to find the Kotanshi - someone who can unite the kingdoms of Tonogato against an evil force that grows stronger by the day. Mikasama, the princess, pursues the pilgrims and a forbidden love, but the call of a magical city on the other side of Tonogato drags her inexorably on as initial desire wanes. Dominating the pilgrimage is the ultimate bad guy - a tyrannical, cruel Lord already in the grip of darker forces. He is the roaming wild card, capable of heinous atrocities at any moment. The desires, trials and unfolding secrets of these characters draw the reader in and drive the story on as the main plot, the quest to find the Kotanshi, builds around and through them.

Despite a resemblance to historical Japanese culture, Tonogato is unlike any earthly world. Each kingdom is increasingly exotic, and all roads lead to Teranashi - a city of spectacular towers precisely controlled by magic and those who possess it. The mental images of these kingdoms and characters will linger in the mind of the reader long after he puts this book down.

This novel is...Radthorne’s impressive debut. It starts quietly, and the unusual cast names require a little concentration on the part of the reader. The intensity and complexity build, especially in the latter half of the tale, proving that Radthorne is a writer to be trusted. She has taken the traditional fantasy quest, with all the loyalty, betrayal, transformation and destiny that that implies, and woven it into an intricate, complex, Japanese scroll with just enough silken threads left to lead readers back to the lands of Tonogato" - Bren MacDibble, Sci Fi Dimensions


"Radthorne creates a decidedly Asian-inspired fantasy world with her debut novel, with scenery, character attitudes, and underlying themes reminiscent of ancient Japan. Shiko, a young apprentice of a Buddhist-like religion, and the headstrong Princess Mikasama each follow different paths across the land of Tonogato in search of a way to save their world from gathering evil. Radthorne manages to tie their two story threads together with a satisfying conclusion... a refreshing change from the medieval European setting so common in fantasy novels and an overall good read." - Bridget Coila, Talebones Magazine, Issue #31


"I read this book some time ago and just took it down from the shelf to look at something on the cover that caught my attention. Now I find myself reading it again! There are two story lines and they are interwoven beautifully. As you move between the stories you are left dying to know what is happening in the other thread. It turns you into a compulsive page turner (even the second time around). I recommend this book highly!" - Linda Iserneau from Littleton, CO USA, on


"Radthorne is a true storyteller, intricately weaving the individual characters into a single complex tapestry. Like a small brook at the beginning, the novel quickly turns into a raging river that will carry the reader along to the end. All throughout Radthorne keeps her religions and mythos straight and true, deepening the world with each page. There are so many layers, each artfully described, that I anticipate reading the novel a second time in the not so distant future. This is just the sort of book that gets better with each reading. " - Seth Kerin on


"I just finished "The Road to Bakara"...a very, very good book, one I can easily recommend to others. I think the thing I liked best...was that the main character was not just another warrior or magician but a Deshi novice, dedicated to knowledge and enlightenment. And he didn't survive his trials and win...because he had grown into a meaner fighting machine than everybody else, or because he had acquired some legendary magical sword, or even just because he was destined to. He won mainly because he used his head. I liked that." - Nicolai from Denmark, posting on the Fantasy message board at SFFWorld


And a nice review for The Sands of Sabakushi

  "This is the second of the tales of Tonogato intended to conclude the business begun in The Road to Bakara. After applauding the first tale, it will come as no surprise that I found this tale equally satisfying for many of the same reasons and for two unique to this tale. Radthorne continues as a master story teller briskly pacing her story’s action as well as the revelations necessary to support the action, carrying the reader along at breakneck pace while managing to insert the necessary explanatory detail wherever it is needed...

Radthorne draws these characters with skill and caring. The reader is never caught short wondering how something happened or why this person reacted that way... I have rarely read a better examination of character than the battle Shiko conducts within himself. Each of the criticisms he must endure and then refute resonates with me. I could see his misery, understand it, and admire how he sustained himself throughout. Consider the power of “Do you think evil is some ‘thing’ that can be perceived? That it can be picked up, held in one’s hand, and then discarded at will. No, evil comes from within.….You cannot banish that, Shiko. Not until you banish humanity itself.” Evil is a process, not a thing.

Part and parcel of his story is Radthorne’s thought, her sensibilities. She writes of the human condition with sympathy and admiration, giving the reader something to be concerned with as well as something to cheer for. As I have said before, read this story. Be prepared to be engrossed, to be puzzled at turns and delighted at others. Be prepared to submit yourself into the hands of a story teller and know that you are going to lose hours and hours basking in her magic." - Dan Bieger,