• The Initiate Brother

  • The Initiate Brother Series, Book 1
  • By: Sean Russell
  • Narrated by: Elijah Alexander
  • Length: 16 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 25-05-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.3 (17 ratings)


Plague and warfare have swept across the Orient, ravaging the ancient kingdom of Wa, devastating the royal line, and leaving a new dynasty on the throne—a new emperor, Akantsu, filled with fear of all who might seek to wrest the empire from his grasp. Among those out of favor with the new liege is the Order of the Botahist Monks, whose mystical powers have enabled them to hold positions as spiritual advisors to the imperial court for nearly ten centuries. But Emperor Akantsu fears none so greatly as he does Lord Shonto, the brilliant leader of the most important of the old families, whose influence could rally the great houses against the throne and whose adopted daughter, the beautiful and talented Lady Nishima, is the last surviving member of the old royal family.
Sent to be military governor of a northern border province long threatened by barbarian invaders, Lord Shonto knows he is being lured to his death. But Akantsu has underestimated his foe, for not only is Lord Shonto the greatest military genius of the age but he has with him a spiritual advisor from the Botahist order—a young man gifted with extraordinary martial arts skills and magical abilities, Initiate Brother Shuyun. And even Lord Shonto does not realize the true potential of this young monk. Only time will reveal that Shuyun’s magical powers have not seen their equal in nearly a thousand years—not since the Perfect Master himself walked the paths of the empire.
©1991 Sean Russell (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic reviews

“Fantasy at its best.” ( Quantum)
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Regular price: £27.09

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Judy on 07-06-11


Set in medieval Japan, this book quietly drew me in. Not an overly complicated plot but the characters are full-bodied and believable. I was particularly taken with the Botahist monk perhaps because he reminded me of the television series with Grasshopper.
The attention to detail, the poetry, the cha (tea) rituals, the calligraphy - all have a very Japanese feel about them and the description of the landscapes and the clothing always felt very integral and not at all like 'padding'.
The reading is brilliant. The speaker has a feel for the way of making his voice autocratic Japanese without attempting accents - and his ability to speak in a female voice is excellent.
The only disappointment was to find that the story is in two parts and part one had come to an end. I hadn't known that there is a sequel to it - which as yet, is not in the Audible library.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the Gatherer of Clouds.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By JPaladin on 04-08-13

Good book; interesting characters, plot, and arc

I enjoyed this book and its sequel. Russel could have easily split this book into two or three--but instead creates a great semi-epic work. This is good writing, with an interesting plot that keeps you reading. However, if you are looking for a non-stop action ride this isn't your book.

It has the setting and plot for a 'coming of age' epic adventure, but Russell clearly didn't want to write that kind of book. The main character has the mysterious strength/ability/power and the setting is a multi-layered epic struggle of the characters' personal beliefs, set under the larger struggle between political families/entities, set under the larger epic struggle between nations/peoples, again set under the still larger struggle of ideologies/religions. While at first the setting leads you expect a coming of age story of a mystical warrior--the coming of age is really about the spiritual identity of the character and the nature of his reality--not his physical abilities (although that is developed in the book, too).

There is action in this series (wars, assassinations, fights, kick-boxing tournament, etc.), but they are almost downplayed at times. For instance, the central character competes in a kickboxing tournament, fighting something like a half-dozen matches, but Russell skims over almost all physical the action as if it is entirely irrelevant until the last match.

While I do enjoy a true action packed epic--this was a well written and enjoyable book. As was its sequel.

The narrator is fine. However, he's one of those narrators which would do best by simply reading the book and not trying to push his voice into a variety of characters. His effort to do so is a little comical at times--two of the minor characters' voices are just silly. One is a bad Yoda impression and the other is straight out of good fellas (odd in this feudal Asian society). Luckily these characters have minor roles, so it doesn't get annoying.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Chuck on 07-04-14

Fun, entertaining, and somewhat unconventional

This was a very good book. The world that Russell creates is beautiful and intriguing. He "paints" a magnificent landscape with gorgeous settings and characters. The writing is pretty good, although it does seem to slip at times, but not so often that it takes away from the overall story. Russell provides a great mix of action, tension, quiet meditation scenes, war, fighting, and court intrigue that keeps the story fresh and keeps the reader engaged.

One thing I did not like was a story line he introduces very early in the book, and to me seemed like it would be central to the book, but he leaves it behind and only touches on it briefly throughout the rest of the book. Maybe he'll spend more time on it in the second book. Other than that, it's a really good book.

Elijah Alexander does a pretty good job with the narration, however, there is something about his voice that took me quite a while to get used to. He is very breathy and often soft spoken which was very distracting for me at first. Most of his character voices are quite good and distinct, but some are just bad, such as the horrible Yoda type voice he uses for one of the minor characters.

Overall, I'd recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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