If one is familiar with the war tales of medieval Japan (tenth to early 17th century), this scholarly study will give valuable background about the warriors (precursors of the samurai) and their combat conventions. If, however, one is unfamiliar with Japanese war tales, the endless names, places, dates, and battles presented here will prove daunting. It would be better to read some of the war tales themselves, many of which have been ably translated, for accounts of various battles that mix historical events with fantasy and literature, and then read this discussion for background. Varley (Japanese history, Columbia Univ.) does not demand familiarity with Japanese but does use many Japanese words with translations throughout his work. His writing is clear and skillful, but the subject matter will still be difficult. Recommended as a companion to collections of war tales.-Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, N.Y.