Blood Ninja by Nick Lake
|Blood Ninja by Nick Lake|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A variable success, but a success nonetheless, as our young hero is turned into a blood-letting ninja for reasons of destiny and revenge.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: April 2010|
It makes perfect sense that ninjas should be vampires. So Taro is told early on in this book, and on the evidence here that statement is correct. With a gutsy, bloody opening to the adventure we see Taro being attacked by ninjas, and rescued by a friendly vampire among them - having doubted the existence of both from his corner of sixteenth century rural Japan. The attack nearly leaves Taro an orphan, but opens himself up to a whole unexpected destiny, as people seek to kidnap him - or worse, and beyond that, an entirely unforseen existence as a teenage vampire when his saviour turns him.
It's refreshing to have a vampire book for the male side of the teenage audience, but just because this refreshingly tries to fill a gap in the market, does not mean it succeeds. Luckily, it does. Despite the female character in the brief, brisk prologue, we are firmly on masculine soil, as heads lose their bodies, weapons are wielded with all due injury and wounding, and enemies are despatched left, right and centre - much like the resulting messenger pigeons.
There is a claim to be made that all those weapons, with their original Japanese names, and several terms of office and other references to Japanese culture and life, make the opening a little denser, and harder to engage with, than some readers might like. But beyond that I think the target reader would hop immediately on the ride of this actioner. It's gory at a very near pitch perfect level, when it does feature unfortunate pieces of plot - hello, training montage - they come at unexpected times, and there are enough in the way of startling turns and twists, for the characters - Taro, plus Hiro his human best friend and companion with his love of wrestling, and Shusaku, his bloodkin vampire, who are strong and strongly realised.
There was a sense of the build-up being a touch too woolly at times, and I was still trying to work out if this was building to an empty cliff-hanger and sequel right to the last fifty pages. So the narrative isn't handled perfectly, but there definitely is enough here, and any quibbles are very minor. Overall it was great to see a new vampire mythology - these Japanese undead have the usual blood-letting powers, and generally fail to thrive in daylight, but they have wicked ways with katanas and more to add to their supernatural physical powers and reflexes.
Oh, and one of them can pull a rug over a trapdoor he's just gone down, but I won't mention that.
The author is big in the industry of children's books, and it shows with an astute sense of freshness to the title. It didn't shine throughout in the quality presented here, but this is still easy to recommend for the intelligent reader, who won't shy from the blood and dismemberment.
I must thank the kind people at Corvus for my review copy.
Teen vampire reads are ten a penny, but we found novelty in Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz. The male reader will still find the action in the Japanese-set Extras by Scott Westerfeld more than worthwhile.
You can read more book reviews or buy Blood Ninja by Nick Lake at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Blood Ninja by Nick Lake at Amazon.com.
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