If James Clavell's "Shogun" had been as good as "Cloud of Sparrows," I might have finished reading it.I am serious."Cloud of Sparrows" is the story of Lord Genji, a Japanese noble who allows Western missionaries to come to his domain. One member of each generation in his family has the gift of prophecy, and Genji has had a vision that his life will be saved by an outsider one day. So, he allows Westerners into Japan after two centuries of isolation.The missionaries are led by Reverend Cromwell and his fiance, Emily. They wind up embroiled in internecine warfare by virtue of being Genji's guests. Further complicating matters is the geisha Heiko, whose loyalties are split between Genji and her mysterious master/patron. It becomes apparent far before Matsuoka reveals it officially that both Heiko and Emily nurse a tendresse for Genji ... and this causes additional complications as well.The characters are interesting, the history is well-researched, and the book is perfectly paced to keep one's interest. I found myself drawn into the time period perfectly, and was reluctant to put this book down even when the necessities of life dictated otherwise.