Title: Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja
Author: Simon Higgins
Nanashi is nearly at the end of his training to be a shinobi, one of the secretive warriors of ancient Japan. His clan, the Grey Light Order, work for the shogun at a time when Japan is newly united and uneasily at peace. But a rebel warlord plans to change the status quo. He has plans for a new and deadly weapon, one that will bring back war and conquest and lay the victory solidly in his own hands. It’s a heavy first mission, but Nanashi (renamed Moonshadow) must succeed, no matter what it costs.
This is an excellent story with a good eye for detail, most especially with the martial arts and sword styles that Moonshadow and the others are using. Japanese words appear throughout, but are given enough context to make sense, and for those readers who can’t remember the plethora of terms, there is also a glossary in the back.
Moonshadow himself is a good protagonist. He’s skilled in the shinobi arts but has little exposure to the outside world. He’s quick, clever, strong, and kindhearted, the last of which works to his favor as much as the rest of his skills put together. Standing against him is a crew of skilled warriors, whose best is the legendary man known as The Deathless. Oh, and there’s also a rival shinobi who would very much like the documents too, and who has a bag of tricks to rival his own.
The fight scenes are the best part of the book, but Moonshadow has plenty of opportunity to show off the rest of his training as he’s got to infiltrate a heavily guarded castle and somehow escape with both the documents and his life.
Overall this is a quick read and a lot of fun. The end is the open-ended resolution that ties everything up yet feels far more like the start of an ongoing series. And I hope it is, because there are small questions left unanswered and some bigger villainry underway, and it would be a shame not to see where this goes. I rate this book Recommended.