Lady Dragon and the Netsuke Carver

I lay on the couch, watching the newscasts from the Empire. Riots in San Francisco. The price of rice in China. A feature on our new mines in Australia. The Emperor’s latest speech to the people.

The Emperor. The most powerful man in the world and unable to make a decision without consulting every Samurai available first.


Traditional Japanese robes (kosode or kimono) have no pockets. Pouches or boxes hang from the sash (obi) of the robe by a cord, secured to the sash by a carved toggle, called a netsuke. If you want to know more about netsuke, check out the International Netsuke Society.

This started out as a story about a netsuke carver but Lady Dragon was determined to make the story about her.

Thanks to Robert Rowntree and Sharon K. Reamer whose comments made this story better.

It appears in Issue 243 of  Interzone, with a striking illustration by Martin Hanford.


A powerful Samurai recalls her past of drug taking, child abuse and revenge, and – as the title suggests – a potentially unwise romance with a netsuke carver, and, of course, betrayal. This story has a sensuality that comes not from explicitness but from a refined subtlety. Told in the first person, the tale forces the reader to piece together the strands of Chiyuko’s life. Who are her friends? Who are her enemies? The ending is delightfully unexpected. Steve Rogerson for Suite 101

I read a previous story by Sharma in the last issue of Interzone, “Needlepoint”, and thought it was excellent. This new story lives up to, and indeed, surpasses that estimation. An alternate-history story, set in a world under Japanese and Samurai dominance (an alternate outcome to WWII, perhaps? Sharma doesn’t say), it has all the key themes of love and duty that you would expect, tied up with some very exciting characters and a world which comes alive on the page. Sharma clearly has a gift for both bold imagination and expressing it artfully through prose, and I would definitely highlight her as one to look out for. Matthew S. Dent

In Priya Sharma’s “Lady Dragon and the Netsuke Carver” we learn that netsuke are miniature sculptures which originated in Japan centuries ago. Considered an art form, each piece offers an inherent symbolism for the owner. Chiyuko, Samurai born, and a ruthless wielder of power, wants her netsuke carved in the form of a dragon.

“Lady Dragon and the Netsuke Carver” is an examination of the Lady Dragon and her relationship to the people around her. The story begins during her recovery from major surgery while in pain and very dependent on others. Sharma creates characters whose motives tend to add up and make this a worthwhile read. A very good story. Bob Leishman for Tangent Online

A deftly-handled story of a powerful young woman who has enemies, and has to spot the assassin in her midst. There’s complexity in the story, but not much in there to make it fantasy or indeed sf/alternate history as hinted in the opening paragraphs. Take out those opening paras and help from a surprise quarter in the closing paras and you have a touch of Fifty Shades of Earl Grey Tea. Mark Watson of Best SF

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: