Summary and book reviews of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

The Emperor of Any Place

by Tim Wynne-Jones

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

The ghosts of war reverberate across the generations in a riveting, time-shifting story within a story from acclaimed thriller writer Tim Wynne-Jones.

When Evan's father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk - a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan's grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son, this engrossing novel is a suspenseful, at times terrifying read from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.

CHAPTER ONE

Evan stands at the door to his father's study. There is a sign at eye level: THE DOCKYARD. It was a present he gave to his father last Christmas, made of cork so that if the house sank, at least the sign would still float. Their little joke.

He raises his hand to knock—a habit he can begin to unlearn. So much of grief is unlearning. He opens the door, steps inside, and takes a shallow breath, afraid of what might be lingering on the air. But there are only the old familiar smells: Royal Lime aftershave, glue, sawdust.

This is where he found him.

He thought his father had fallen asleep. The only sign that anything was wrong was the new model ship lying on its side on the carpet. His father had finished it the evening before— fourteen days ago. Evan had picked up the ship; it wasn't damaged. He found a space for it on the shelf with the other ships, a couple dozen of them. He placed it there to join his father's bottled armada. "Not so grand ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Describe Evan as a character, including his life before his father died. How does he cope with his grief and anger? How does he change in the course of the story? Speculate on what you think his future will be like.
  2. Evan's father, Clifford, appears in two flashbacks, but otherwise his character as an adult is revealed through Evan, neighbors, and friends. Discuss Clifford and what he means to those people, especially Evan.
  3. Evan describes the boat in a bottle as a "ship that wasn't going anywhere" and adds fondly, "Just like my dad" (page 12). Later he calls it "making a toy out of what had been an instrument of war" (page 282). What do these ships reveal about Clifford? Discuss why Clifford sent one to Griff, why Griff sent ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The contemporary story of Evan and his grandfather is realistic and convincing as a modern-day story of a young man coming of age during a time of grief. The historical narrative includes supernatural scenes and creatures whose presence adds suspense—even terror—and vividly deepens and enriches the novel's themes about the vital need for storytelling, the strength of memories, the strong pull of family connections, and the catastrophic personal and social costs of war. Pretty intense stuff for a novel that will be shelved in the YA sections at bookshelves and libraries—which is one reason why The Emperor of Any Place is worthwhile reading for anyone, regardless of age.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review (511 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers will be swept up quickly in the tense relationship between Evan and Griff, as well as the unlikely friendship between enemy soldiers fighting for survival in a surreal landscape. Ages 14 + up.

Booklist

Starred Review. The main characters in both time periods are complex and vividly portrayed, while the stories, both supernatural and realistic, quietly take note of nuances that standard narratives overlook. A riveting, remarkable novel by a reliably great Canadian writer.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he eliminates the hidden depths of personalities and families through a mesmerizing blend of realism and magic.

School Library Journal

Starred Review. Offering a unique take on the World War II period, this intergenerational tale is an excellent addition to most YA collections.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Creatures from Japanese Mythology

Two of the monsters that haunt the island of Kokoro-Jima in the novel The Emperor Of Any Place are borrowed from traditional Japanese mythology.

Jikininki might remind many readers of zombies. In The Emperor of Any Place, they devour the bodies of deceased soldiers who have washed ashore on Kokoro-Jima, but what they are hungry for isn't brains but stories and memories. These creatures are inspired by corpse-eating ghosts from Japanese Buddhist mythology.

A tengu mask According to legends, these are the ghosts of people who were selfish or greedy during their lifetimes and are consequently doomed to a sort of half-life, kept alive by the flesh of human corpses. Jikininki are apparently self-loathing, longing to be freed from a horrific ...

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