Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blood Ninja by Nick Lake (4/5 stars)

I got this book through the Amazon Vine program.  I like vampires and ninjas so I thought it would be an interesting read.  I was a little worried (based on the title and the cover) that this book would be too corny for me or a bit over the top.  It was neither of those.  It was very well-done and, if anything, a bit too devoid of any humor.  It is also not a stand-alone book, which I didn't know.

Taro is a fisherman's son.  At least that is what he is raised to believe.  He is in for a rude surprise when a group of ninjas descend on his house and murder his father.  One of the ninjas, Shusaku, is different though and tries to save Taro.  Shusaku fails as Taro is run-through with a sword.  Suddenly Taro must make a choice as his life ebbs from the wound in his stomach.  Will he let Shusaku turn him into a vampire and "live" or will he die?  He chooses to "live" and suddenly Taro, his best friend Hiro, and Shusaku are off on a journey that will make Taro question everything he knows about the world and himself.

There was a lot I liked about this book.  The amount of Japanese history dwelling within the pages of this story is amazing.  Lake really did his research and gives great detail on various aspects of Japanese history.  It was fascinating to read about ninjas in the context of actual Japanese history.  I am not sure how accurate all the historical details are (it would have been nice for the author to include an afterward addressing this) but they are well thought-out and seem to be well researched.  The other thing I really liked about this book was the moral struggles Taro was forced to face and question.  Taro comes from a world where Lord Oda is god and samurai are the noblest men he knows, ninjas are to be despised as sneaks.  As he journeys  with Shusaku he sees Oda's true personality and, as he meets other ninjas and other samurai, he comes to realize that the world is not as black and white as he thought.  Taro's struggle with his perceptions and own morality were really well done in this book.

Another thing I liked about the book was how ninjas and vampires were melded into one race.  Lake did an excellent job of making this believable and not preposterous or over-the-top at all.  It is all well done and very tasteful.  I also enjoyed all the cool ninja tricks and action scenes.  This is definitely a book for the older young adult.  As is often the case with ninjas, the violence in this book is pretty extreme.

There were a couple things I didn't like about this book.  The plot is very predictable.  After the first couple chapters I was able to predict how the storyline would go.  The characters themselves were also very predictable.  Lake's strong point is not characterization, the character's are a bit 2D and pretty dry.  In fact there is no humor in this book whatsoever and that is another thing I didn't like about this book.  Taro and his friends never have any fun.  The book in general takes itself a bit too seriously.  So if you are looking for something witty or humorous this is not the book for you.

Lastly this is not a stand-alone book.  It pretty much stops right in the middle of the story with a number of things unresolved.  Those who have read my reviews before know that this always irritates me; I think writers should be able to have some sort of ending in between books.  The other thing that irked me is that this is not advertised as a series, yet it is clearly the start of one.  If I had known it was the start of another series I probably wouldn't have read it.  I spent a bit of time looking online and could not find any information about the rest of this series (how many books, next release date, etc.).

In summary I liked this book.  The story is steeped in Japanese history that is interesting.  The ninja vampires are well-done and believable.  I thought the characterization was a bit weak and the story predictable.  I was also disappointed it was so devoid of any humor.   Readers looking for humor and romance should look elsewhere.  Readers interested in Japanese history, ninjas, and politics will find a lot here to like.  Will I read the next book in the series?  I am undecided right now, I really didn't want to get involved in reading yet another series.  We will see.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge

Blood Ninja 

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