Samurai Awakening

Benjamin Martin. Tuttle, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-4-8053-1228-5
Martin offers an unconventional fish-out-of-water adventure in this well-researched but problematic debut. Thirteen-year-old David Matthews is an American exchange student spending a year in Japan, where his inability to speak Japanese makes him an outcast. Everything changes after an incident at a local shrine imbues David with the spirit of a Kami, a Japanese god. Suddenly able to understand those around him, David also discovers newfound powers and responsibilities as a newly created Jitsugen Samurai responsible for protecting Japan and fighting evil. Under the guidance of a host family, David is thrust into a shadowy life of intense training and deadly encounters. Martin scrupulously details the elements of David's apprenticeship, and his familiarity with Japanese customs and myth lends verisimilitude—the weight of which can sometimes overwhelm the story. Martin's writing is richest when conveying David's initial disorientation as an outsider in a new environment. While the fantasy elements are intriguingly grounded in Japanese culture, the central premise that an American foreigner is elected to become a chosen one is an outdated trope that undermines much of the story. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Open Ebook - 323 pages - 978-1-4629-1034-2
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