This wasn't an easy book to read and there many times I almost abandoned it, but I am glad I stuck with it. The fact that almost 1/3 of the book is source notes and references is astounding. I cannot imagine what it would be like to try to write narrative non-fiction about a person who lived so long ago. The story brought me into what life would have been like in Japan during the 1100's and gave me a greater appreciation for that period of history. There is a lot of violence in the book since that time period was very violent, so I wouldn't recommend the title to elementary students (not to mention it is rather complex with all the characters and places). However, I think this book would be great for middle school and up for any reader who is looking for a challenging book with a lot of action and adventure.