Saturday, February 1, 2014

YA Ninja Fantasy Review: Shinobi 7 by L. Benitez

Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior (#1)Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior by L. Benitez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fresh style, lot's of humor, and ninjas-in-training.

Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior introduces six young ninjas in training in a setting similar to feudal Japan. The story, excluding the prologue, starts with Cassie, a gentle, non-violent sort, who is traveling to the training school of the Kitsune Clan, the only one that has yet survived the violent takeover of the evil Blackthorne Clan. On the road, she meets Hanran, a quiet boy with a secret, Yami and Luna, siblings who can't wait to be awesome ninjas, and Tabby, a girl who loves sugar. Following Cassie's map, the five soon reach the Kitsune school and along with others who have also just arrived, are welcomed into the school and assigned to Sector 7, where they meet Kuroi, an arrogant young man who has been the lone member of Sector 7 for quite some time and is not happy about having to welcome fresh meat.

Right away, I picked up on the youthful undertones of the book, mostly from Cassie's thoughts and reactions coupled with the teenager slang that comes through them. I didn't realize until later that this unique and appealing flavor was only one of several different perspectives I would enjoy as I read this book. Multiple viewpoints sometimes get a little hard to track, but in this book, the author does a fantastic job keeping them straight. Each one, down to their thoughts and mannerisms, is utterly unique and perfectly consistent throughout the story, and the viewpoints are used to move the story along as well as provide backstory and entertainment value.

Besides the young people in training, the seasoned teachers in the school are also featured in various scenes, particularly Akira, the young woman who is featured in the prologue. She and the other masters have the burden of dealing with their own fears and training the new recruits enough for them to survive an attack from the Blackthorne Clan. They also have a secret to protect.

As for the bad guys, they are pretty scary. Their bloodthirsty battle lust coupled with supernatural strength and powers obtained by linking with evil spirits make them a devastating force. Of the original 13 secret clans mentioned early in the book, only Kitsune Clan remains intact. The leaders of the Blackthorne Clan are sinister. Black Rose, a beautiful geisha, and Rengoku, a fierce warrior, lead the Clan and have their eyes set on ruling the entire world. They need only a mystical gem rumored to be held by Kitsune Golden Tail, the leader of the Kitsune Clan.

As for favorite characters, it's hard to narrow them down. I enjoyed all of the different perspectives. However, if I had to pick one, I'd say Luna is my favorite. She is utterly fearless, exuberant, and a force to be reckoned with, and she's only 8 years old, the youngest in Sector 7.

As a ninja, martial arts story, I must say that the level of detail regarding the martial arts, war and Japanese customs and terminology seem pretty extensive without being overbearing. I learned terms for a few new weapons, enjoyed the well choreographed fight scenes and battles, and the missions (both training and real). Each encounter packs a lot of action and excitement.

However, some of the training scenarios are a little unlikely. For example, I don't think it would be physically possible to come in off the street and complete 500 pushups as a raw recruit, even if you passed out, took and nap and came back to finish them when you woke up. I also noticed a couple of distance and proportion idiosyncracies. One time, the students are running in a field within the walled Kitsune Clan grounds and the field is described as being ten miles long. Sure, the school is described as enormous, but why would it need ten full miles of grassland for running within its walls where maybe one would do the trick. I used to run two to three miles at a time and picturing how far that was and applying it to the field in the school grounds just boggles my mind.

Overall, I recommend this book to martial arts enthusiasts who enjoy a youthful perspective, lots of action, and a good measure of humor. This is definitely worth reading (perhaps even multiple times).

I received a free copy of this ebook in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

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