Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Blood Ninja II: The Revenge of Lord Oda by Nick Lake

Hi all!

Here's a review of a historical YA set in Japan.

Author: Nick Lake
Series: Blood Ninja #2
Release date: 6th of December 2011
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Historical, Fantasy, YA
Pages: 416 in Paperback
Source: Bought from The Book Depository

Now that the vile Lord Oda is dead, Taro and his friends are safe in the mountain lair of the ninjas. Or so they think. When a homing pigeon arrives with news of Taro's mother's whereabouts, Taro sets out for the Tendai monastery - without stopping to consider why the pigeon, which was given to his mother months ago, took so long to arrive.

Soon, Taro, Hana and Hiro find themselves in a trap, as strange new creatures invade their lives and familiar enemies surround them - and the most deadly enemy of all is their old friend Yukiko. In the end, despite his vampire abilities, Taro is helpless to prevent the death of his mother. Furious and grief stricken, haunted by her mute and beseeching ghost, he determines to recover the object which Lord Oda was so desperate to procure before he died: the Buddha Ball, source of limitless power.

There are just two problems: first, Lord Oda is not dead. And second, the Buddha Ball is not where Taro thought. If Taro is to fulfill his destiny, he must face his arch enemy on an equal battlefield - for Lord Oda is a vampire now too. And then, to make peace with his mother, and recover the Buddha ball, Taro must go to hell and back...

I find Japanese culture and way of life quite fascinating. Having learned the language and being adequately familiar with their culture are also the catalyst for me to always have interest and to at least check out books that take place or revolve around Japan, especially YA books since there is so few with a Japanese setting or plot elements. This is, actually, a real shame since there are endless possibilities to explore and write about. Luckily, there are some YA books already published or will be in the future, so I’m almost satisfied. For now.
Blood Ninja II is the second book in the Blood Ninja trilogy. As the title suggests, it’s an action-packed book with a familiar but still quite a unique premise - ninja vampires in historical Japan. What the book promises it also delivers, I was a big fan of the first book and the second has upped its game and leaves no space to hesitate. It’s bloody, full of adventure and deadly situations, the setting of medieval Japan is detailed and perfectly created, it feels alive. The legends, folklore, traditions, etc. are all perfectly woven together with the plot and characters to form a fantastic and exotic historic YA read that not only young adults can enjoy.
As much as I liked the book I would have liked to see more some humor or more lighthearted moments between the characters and a bit of breathing room. Everyone is constantly overly serious, which they of course have every reason to be, and there is constant action. I understand that fun and comedy doesn’t always have a place in every book and Blood Ninja II is a book that means business and all the grave situations don’t really seem a commonplace for humor, but there is nothing wrong in wishing there is. Nevertheless, this is a really minor issue I had while reading.
Taro is a great hero. Despite being a vampire, he still managed to be vulnerable and possessed characteristics that don’t make him anything but human. Feeling unsecure, fear, jealousy and on the other side being brave, self-sacrificing, determined. Taro’s a relatable realistic; he fights for and is loyal to his friends and mother. I liked how through all the hardships and circumstances he questions himself and his limits, without seeming like nothing fazes him and is overly confident and reckless, like a lot of YA male protagonists, but still in the end Taro always remains steadfast and comes through. It was slightly hard to grasp at times that he was brought up as a simple fisherman’s son but could accomplish all the feats that he did, but in the context of the book it worked and he came across special and believable.
Hana and Hiro fulfilled their role as loyal and helpful support for Taro perfectly. They weren’t really anything remarkable in comparison with other characters and served the purpose of the love interest and the best friend, but their parts were satisfying and there was a lot going on in the book for me to notice or mind their one-sidedness.
I felt really bad for Taro’s mentor Shusaku since he goes through so many troubles selflessly and the blows just keep coming. I hope he finds peace eventually.
Lord Oda and Lord Tokugawa – the two giants who make up the two warring sides to the power struggle for total control over Japan. Allies on the surface but, in reality, anything but that. They really seem larger than life, wiser and more cunning than anyone, like puppeteers planning their steps years in advance, willing to sacrifice whatever necessary – in every way deserving to occupy the seats of the two powerhouses in the trilogy. Even though Lord Oda falls slightly short next to Lord Tokugawa in tactics and sneakiness, he makes it up with brutality and ruthlessness. I personally prefer Lord Tokugawa more since he is more composed and cunning, giving out an appearance that doesn’t exactly coincide with his grand ambitions and cruelty, with Lord Oda you get what you see.
A worthy sequel for a promising and exciting first book of the trilogy that met my expectations and more. I just got the last book a couple of days ago and I can’t wait to start to see where all the edge-of-your-seat action ends up!

4 stars!



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