You had me at wakizashi.
Many of you know I am a romantic, a lover of fantasy/paranormal YA, a ‘give me a happy ending or I’ll hurt you’ kind of girl. But…I have a deep dark confession. Please refrain from snickering. I am a lover of most things Japanese: manga and anime (ninjas and samurai only please) and have spent hours of my life watching Naruto and Ninja Warrior on G4. We’re all dorks about something and I suppose this is mine. So reading the Blood Ninja books allows me hours of blissed-out Japanese dorkdom. I also confess that ‘wakizashi’ is my most favorite word in any language.
The quest for the Buddha ball continues in Nick Lake’s follow up to his debut novel (Blood Ninja). Male protagonist, Taro, born and raised as a peasant in a fishing village, continues to come to grips with the fact he is now not only a ninja vampire, but also the lost son of Lord Tokugawa, the most powerful daimyo of 16th century Japan. Accompanied by his most loyal friend, Hiro, and the beautiful wakizashi wielding princess, Hana, daughter of Lord Oda, the second most powerful daimyo, Taro continues on his quest to find his mother and beat the evil Lord Oda at retrieving the all- powerful Buddha ball.
Mr. Lake follows the tried and true formula for fantasy: a simple person (Taro) who is greater than he knows, who unwillingly gets caught up in the supernatural. There is the best friend (Hiro), who would willingly die for his friend (ala Samwise Gamgee), and ah, the princess of course (Hana), rescued by Taro when her father orders her to commit seppuku (Japanese ritualistic suicide…I’ll let you google the gory details if you are unfamiliar). It’s a formula that works and this author is gifted enough to work in some surprises along the way.
I thoroughly buy Mr. Lake’s rules of vampirism, unlike Stephanie Meyer’s (sorry, Steph). Sunlight and vampires don’t get along as a general rule, unless there is something special about them, like Taro. Not all vampires are ninjas but all ninjas are vampires (say that ten times fast). They have super human strength and agility, the ability to feed off of humans or animals to sustain themselves, and the capability to feed without killing. These vampires have blood in their veins and you can only kill them with a good old-fashioned decapitation or sword to the heart (ah, the good ol’ days of Buffy). Yes, they heal from all other wounds, but it takes time and they are not free from the pain of injury.
Note to author and spoiler alert: Nick…Nicky… may I call you Nicky? You make me wait two whole books for a kiss and that’s what you give me? <I’m shaking my head affectionately at you> No, it was not the worst kiss I’ve ever read. I was even thinking I’d get all sexist and say, “he’s a guy, of course he can’t write a good kiss.” But dude—you wrote an entire paragraph of Hana just touching Taro’s hand. Gorgeously written by the way, bordering on lyrical. I swear I read it three times in a row because it was so beautiful. And then you wimp out on the kiss??? Please…consult me on the next book for all collision of lips. I promise to drop everything for you. Email me, Facebook me, text me…call Cassie Clare or Lauren Kate, if you must. Just please, write better kisses. The Hogwarts kids are seriously getting better snogging action. J
Bottom line: An easy, enjoyable read. Lots of blood and violence, but a bit of swooning and pining as well. Do yourself a favor and get the first book first. I myself am already waiting to pre-order the next one. Oh, and every time you read the word ‘wakizashi’, I highly recommend shouting it out loud with your arms in the air like your favorite team just scored a touchdown (in my house that would be the Eagles). Yeah…I’m a dork.--Suzi Ryan