Nick Lake, . . Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (369pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-8627-0
British author Lake's promising U.S. debut takes three of the most overused ideas in fantasy—the boy with a destiny, vampires, and ninjas—and combines them into a highly effective adventure. Marked by destiny, Taro has no idea that he is anything but a simple peasant until ninjas murder his father, driving Taro and his mother from their home. Protected and mentored by the ninja Shusaku and accompanied by his best friend, Hiro, Taro must come to terms with the heritage that makes him invaluable to two lords vying for control of feudal Japan, the revelation that the murderous samurai are not the noble heroes he admired, and his unexpected transformation into a kyuuketsuki (a vampire). While the ending sets up an inevitable sequel, the riveting, often gruesome, action and rich, comprehensible mythology should have readers racing through the chapters. Terry Pratchett wrote that clichés are “the spanners and the screwdrivers in the toolbox of language,” and Lake uses the story's familiar elements skillfully, combining them into an imaginative and original whole. And, really, with vampire ninjas, how can you lose? Ages 12–up.
Reviewed on: 12/07/2009
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