At the start of the tale, Kaze rescues a merchant from a bandit attack. The merchant's guards have been slain, and the merchant threatened, when Kaze attacks from the rear, slaying three quickly and scattering the rest. The merchant is transporting a cart full of gold, and he implores Kaze to aid him. Knowing that the bandits are likely to return, Kaze helps the merchant. The first third of the book details the adventures of the merchant and Kaze versus the bandits. Eventually, the merchant is delivered safely to his home, and there it seems that the real Jade Palace mystery can begin - the tale of the merchant with the gold filled cart on the open road comes off as a long introduction to the real story, it is not really necessary to the tale - it felt like the novel was padded - the whole novel is only 222 pages in the hardcover edition that I read. There isn't much of a mystery or suspense in this novel, it is really more of character study - and there Furutani does a great job at depicting Kaze.
Kaze is an ideal guy - a lethal killing machine, yet humble and polite in his manner. He shows respect to peasants and is uninterested in wealth. He devoted to his task of rescuing the missing child, but he can take the time to aid those he meets along the way, like the merchant with the cart. Kaze may be TOO ideal - but so far I haven't gotten disenchanted with his character. He sure seems to win an awful lot of swordfights though, especially against great odds. The other characters are also interesting, though actions of the rival swordmaster, Enomoto, at the end of the book didn't make that much sense to me. Why look for trouble?
The Jade Palace Vendetta survives the "middle book" in a trilogy jinx, it successfully tells it story, and advances the story of Kaze, setting everything up for the grand finale in the final book, which I intend to read.