'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Review: Owl Ninja: Samurai Kids #2

Okay. How does she do this? Write these books, I mean. I love to read and enjoy a good story at any time, but I particularly love it when I read something and am seriously impressed. Not just by a great story, but by an author's craft.

And Sandy Fussell has indeed crafted some fine books in the Samurai Kids series.

In book two of the Samurai Kids series, we open with drumming. The beat of the war drum. After many decades of peace, the threat of war once again hangs over the heads of the Samurai ryus, and only the word of the Son of Heaven - the Emperor - can still the drums.

In Owl Ninja, Sensei and his kids from the Cockroach Ryu are on a quest to travel to the Emperor to beseech him to stop the imminent blood shed, but there's one problem. Things weren't left well between Sensei and the Emperor the last time they met - indeed, the Emperor had expressed a desire to detach Sensei's head from his skinny old body.

Nonetheless, Sensei knows he has no choice - he must travel to the city to see the Emperor if he stands any chance of preventing the unncessary call of the war drum. And the kids of the Cockroach Ryu will accompany him, travelling through endless days and nights, over the mountains, through Hell Valley and via the family home of our young narrator - Niya - who hasn't seen his family for several years - to the city and the imposing walls of the Emperor's castle.

But will the Emperor soften his heart to the plight of Sensei and his wise old ways, or will he be dazzled by the powerful glint of the war-loving Dragon Master, who has brought with him a scroll that proves the necessity of a call to war?

And what of the increasingly wise and clever kids of the Cockroach Ryu, whose deeply embedded lessons of wisdom and skill are beginning to shine through? And when combined with the undercover talents of the kids from the Owl Ninja clan, it seems certain the Dragon Master's warlike intentions are doomed.

Or are they?

Fussell has once again woven an exquisite journey for her samurai characters in Owl Ninja. Packed with delicately-crafted action and a brilliantly meshed dichotomy between wisdom and hilarity, this second book in the Samurai Kids series once again takes you to another world and time. There's even the hint of a love story in book two, and a gently rising sense of growth and development for the kids of the Cockroach Ryu.

All you want to do is barrack them on, and with the promise of travel in book three - I, for one, am champing at the bit to get back into jump straight into Shaolin Tiger. In fact, I started reviewing book five - Fire Lizard so I could add it to this Behind the Books feature on Sandy Fussell, but after a few pages, I knew I couldn't interrupt the chronological flow of this series. Fire Lizard will come soon enough, my friends, but for now, I'm off on another journey to meet the Shaolin Tiger.

You must join me.

Title: Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja
Author: Sandy Fussell
Illustrator: Rhian Nest James
Publisher: Walker Books, $14.95RRP
Publication Date: 1 October 2008
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921150371
For ages: 8+
Type: Junior Fiction