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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn a bit of history as Jack begins to learn the customs and language.
Jack comes of age as he learns martial arts skills, fights back against bullies -- and begins to master the way of the warrior.
Positive Role Models
It's easy to root for Jack as he deals with school bullies -- and even Dragon Eye, who will kill him or anyone else who stands in his way.
Violence & Scariness
A boy is stabbed in the heart, another is stabbed in the stomach, both are killed, a man is burned to death, another has his fingers sliced off, another is decapitated, a boy sees his father murdered with a sword, much fighting with fists and swords.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Men and boys drink and get drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a story about samurai in feudal Japan, so there is much sword-fighting, and many injuries and deaths, including two boys. Readers will learn a bit of history as Jack begins to learn the customs and language. And they will find him an easy character to root for.
Is It Any Good?
Cross James Clavell's Shogun with The Karate Kid and you'll get an idea of what this book is like. The first half is all Shogun: Brit marooned in Japan, taken in by powerful lord, and befriended by beautiful girl begins to learn the customs and language, finds it's all too easy to offend, has to contend with the Portuguese Jesuits who want to keep the Brits out, and finds he has an affinity for this strange land. Then it goes all Karate Kid, as Jack is bullied, learns martial arts skills, fights back, and ends up in a tournament. There's even a super-secret move.
All right, so it's derivative. And the writing is a bit clunky at times. But it's a rip-roaring story, gripping from beginning to end, with a bit of history, the fascination of a strange, and strangely magnetic, culture to learn about, a stalwart hero to root for, and an exceptionally satisfying ending. The author may be a first-timer, but he knows his martial arts (the jacket copy says he has a "black belt in Zen Kyo Shin Tai-jutsu, the secret fighting art of the ninja"). This is the first in a proposed series, and young readers will be eager for the next installment. A very successful debut.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.