Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword
1612, Japan. This is Jack Fletcher’s second samurai adventure. Now thirteen, he has been adopted by the venerated samurai Matamoto and is now in his second year at the samurai school. There is a new challenge: the Circle of Three, an ancient ritual which tests a samurai’s courage, skill and spirit to the limit – and only the top five students may enter for it.
Jack has other problems, too. Kazuki, a xenophobic fellow student, will sabotage Jack’s chances if he can. His attitude that gaijins (foreign barbarians) are inferior and unwanted is worryingly echoed in news from the outside world that Christians will soon be banished from Japan and that some have already been killed.
His greatest problem, however, is how to keep safe the rutter his father left him. Jack knows that the dreaded ninja, Dragon Eye, would do anything to get his hands on this priceless navigational book. He has already killed Jack’s father and he has vowed to kill Jack, too.
Can Jack master the Way of the Sword in time to survive a fight to the death?
I enjoyed this. The mixture is much the same as before – various Herculean tasks in which Jack must demonstrate his skill, bravery and nerve – but none the worse for that. Chris Bradford plainly knows his stuff and his story-telling skills match his knowledge of the samurai Way of the Sword. And this isn’t just a one character book; for example, one of Jack’s teachers, the blind Sensei Kano, and Jack’s gentle fellow student, Yori, who makes beautiful origami figures, have their own stories which are woven into the dramatic fabric. The pace is terrific and there is never a dull moment. Boys of 11 plus will love it.
This book is an exuberant and exciting read because every page carries more secrets, lies and mysteries than a detective story. It is not the first of the series and, even though I have not read the first book, I could understand what had happened before and follow it easily. However, sometimes it was difficult to follow exactly what was going on, but I suppose fights are hard to describe. I suggest that Chris Bradford gives his readers more descriptions of characters in the book, and that he explains how the characters feel. Still, I feel that Chris Bradford has written a page-turning and exhilarating book.
Hal McNulty, age 12