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Blood Ninja by Nick Lake

Blood Ninja (2009)

by Nick Lake

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  zevombat | Sep 27, 2012 |
Taro is a lonley boy from a small fishing village on the coast of Japan. Growing up in the time before the Tokugawa Shogunate, he has always felt different from the villagers around him. Except for his devoted friend, Hiro, Taro has no friends.

His world explodes when his father is killed in an attack by ninjas. During that attack, Taro's life is saved by another ninja and this changes everything for him. Forced to leave his mother and the only life he has ever known, Taro embarks on an adventurous journey to learn the truth.

This book combines ninjas, samurai warriors and vampires in a fun and interesting way. Really, it contains all the necessary ingredients for a book sure to please many boys, and readers who desire a plot driven story full of action.

While much of the story is ridiculous, it is that very aspect that can make it fun to read.

Try it. ( )
  rapago | May 18, 2011 |
Teen novel about vampire ninjas in 16th century Japan. The start of another series, this debut novel was very enjoyable.
  Bookbunny22 | Apr 20, 2010 |
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. ( )
  krau0098 | Jan 31, 2010 |
In Short: Light is in terrible danger. Her father, an Arctic explorer is missing, presumed dead. She is being stalked by strange creatures straight out of Inuit legend. Butler, her friend and protector, is hiding something from her. She sets off on a journey to the Arctic, to discover the truth about her father and her own past.

What I thought:
I feel very ambivalent about this book. Some bits I loved. Other bits (mostly in the last half) were not so great.

It is beautifully illustrated by Liane Payne.

Each chapter has a little iconic being that reminds me of traditional Inuit art:

The story starts well. Light is an interesting character. She is a half Inuit albino, living in her father’s mansion in Ireland. She is an eccentric loner, half stubborn and half scared. Her father has been declared “missing, presumed dead” while in the Arctic on a scientific expedition . I could not help comparing her to some very similar female heroines – Lyra Silvertongue, who lost her father in the Northern Ice, and Garth Nix’s Sabriel, who sets out to save her father from the icy grip of Death.

Light’s initial reaction to the fantastical creatures from her father’s past is very convincing. Her mixture of fear and disbelief are just what I would expect to feel when suddenly confronted by a talking crow, or a man with a shark’s head. This makes her more believable than Lyra or Sabriel, both of whom are rather intimidatingly brave.

Here is a conversation between her and Tupilak – the shark-head man. Light is asking Tupilak what he ate on his journey across the sea:

“Sea Creatures” said Tupilak.
“Sea Creatures? Like what? Fish?”
“Fish yes. Some squid. A dolphin”
“You ate a dolphin?” Light asked, shocked. “How could you?”
“Well, it wasn’t easy. I had to tear out its throat. Then I ate its fins. But the body was very heavy.”

I also liked Nick Lake’s way with metaphor. When Light does not want to think about her father’s blog after he goes missing “the memory seemed to have grown thorns, and she could no longer touch it”.

Or Light’s thoughts as she journeys in the Arctic:

“Here on the ice cap she felt like a flea on the back of a polar bear. And at any moment the bear could choose to scratch”

There are many odd little philosophical moments. On board a ship in a pitching sea, Light watches the water in her glass moving in concert with the water outside with increasing unease.

“It was as though all the water in the world – though separated into seas and water glasses and rivers – wanted only to be together and still thought with one mind.”

Some don’t work so well for me, but still resonate:

“In the Arctic, though, the beauty of snow is underpinned by deadly danger – in the same way that a beautiful bunch of flowers becomes something more terrible and more devastating when you see it propped against a lamp post at the side of a busy road, with a note pinned to it.”

This book does not live up to its initial promise. I loved the characters, but did not get to know them. The last half degenerates into your standard series of Hollywood fight scenes complete with clever quips and improbable timing.

Maybe I am judging unfairly as I simply don’t like horror. There is a lot of gratuitous eyeball plucking and evisceration, and after a certain amount of this I stopped caring so much about the characters involved. Unlike the horror in, for example, Garth Nix’s stories, that can get pretty visceral, these incidents were just grossly “yuck” rather than heightening the drama.

My main problem was with the villain – the evil Frost. He is set up beautifully: a frightening, mysterious force that is so terrible that he does not even have a name in Inuit legend. But when he finally arrives on the scene he is disappointingly human – a character from a Gothic computer game rather than the embodiment of a force of nature.

There is a lot of potential here. The true enemy – the bitter landscape of the Arctic – is vividly portrayed. The story tries to explore a fascinating ideas of grief and fear, compassion and weakness. I wonder to what extent those ideas were smothered by an attempt to create a more conventional story of wham-bam adventure. ( )
  mashadutoit | Jul 4, 2009 |
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After his father is murdered and a ninja saves his life, Taro discovers the connection between ninjas and vampires and finds himself being dragged into a bitter conflict between the rival lords ruling Japan.

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