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

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Review: Shaolin Tiger: Samurai Kids #3

As mentioned in my last review - Owl Ninja - I had hoped to review Sandy Fussell's latest book, Fire Lizard, but I simply couldn't resist reading her Samurai Kids series in chronological order. I didn't want to jump ahead and learn anything I didn't need to know yet. No surprises need to be spoiled, no no.

Hmm. Maybe I am becoming more like the Samurai warrior - patient, wise and able to contain myself!

But I'm glad I did delay reviewing Fire Lizard because I'm quite sure the lessons I learned in Shaolin Tiger will better prepare me for book four - Monkey Fist - as well as book five.

Let me just tell you, though - all Samurai-likeness aside... I can't wait!

Like many great adventure series, Shaolin Tiger opens with a journey - a journey across the sea. And this is not any old sea. This is a hungry, dragon-like sea - and it wants to claim a victim in return for the passage across its rolling back to China. Who will it claim?

Could it be one of our Samurai Kid warriors? This band of brothers (and sisters) are certainly affected by the death, but are soon distracted as they enter the wetlands of the Chinese coast... faced with a long journey ahead to the White Tiger Temple - the home of the Shaolin warriors.

Abbott Lin has put out a call for help, for the temple is in grave danger - but it's the warrior's Sensei who perhaps faces the most danger of all. His ex-student and blood-thirsty ex-student, Qing-Shen, knows of his master's arrival, and the time is now upon him to exact revenge.

You see, Sensei broke a promise to his former student... and although we are yet to learn why, it's clear that the dark heart of Qing-Shen is responsible for Sensei's promise withdrawal. It is in Shaolin Tiger that we learn of a great treasure Sensai is hiding, and the author very neatly delivers more of Sensei's past to finally whet our appetite for more history on this enigmatic man.

Fussell also bundles up and delivers a great wallop of suspense in this book... although Qing-Shen is everywhere, we don't meet him directly until the very end of the book, when the warriors of the Cockroach Ryu are called upon to utilise their skills like never before... with a very surprising outcome.

It's a joy to follow the samurai kids as they develop and grow into great warriors. Witnessing their growth not only in terms of wisdom and skill, is a privilege - but also in terms of the relationships that unfold as delicately as a lotus flower. Fussell pens these beautifully, adding just enough intrigue, romance, power and kinship to add a depth and finesse that is emotionally palpable.

Book three of the series still retains an innate sense of humour, wisdom, charm and 'visual' splendour found in preceding books, with a grounding haze of solemnity that is clearly accompanying these young trainees as they begin to turn into Samurai greats.

Shaolin Tiger is enthralling, masterfully written and edited, and truly satisfying. Be prepared for turning pages rapidly.

Title: Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger
Author: Sandy Fussell
Illustrator: Rhian Nest James
Publisher: Walker Books, A$14.95RRP
Publication Date: 1 April 2009
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921150906
For ages: 8+
Type: Junior Fiction

See more of Sandy's books at her website