Jack Fletcher is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan – his beloved father and the crew lie slaughtered by ninja pirates.
Rescued by the legendary sword master Masamoto Takeshi, Jack’s only hope is to become a samurai warrior. And so his training begins . . .
But life at the samurai school is a constant fight for survival. Even with his friend Akiko by his side, Jack is singled out by bullies and treated as an outcast.
With courage in his heart and his sword held high, can Jack prove himself and face his deadliest rival yet?
I am a big massive huge fan of movies in the vein of The Seven Samurai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Kung Fu Hustle and even the stunning Versus. Let's not forget Lone Wolf and Cub, Bichunmoo, Fearless - the list is endless. In other words, any movie set in ancient China or Japan that has to do with swords, heroes, kicks, action.
Which is why I jumped with glee when I received Chris Bradford's amazing Young Samurai: The way of the warrior in the post from Puffin.
This book - in a word - rocks.
Set in Japan it follows a young English boy, Jack Fletcher's adventures in the Masamoto household. He is rescued by Masamoto after the ship he is travelling on, with his father as the pilot, is attacked by pirates and ninjas. Jack's father is murdered by a ninja, known as the Dragon Eye. Jack survives and is wracked with guilt because he could not help save his father.
In the Masamoto household he makes friends with the lovely Akiko and learns to basics of fighting with the wooden swords known as bokken from Masamoto's only surviving son, Yamato. He foils an attempt by a group of ninja to steal the only possession he has of his father, the rutter - a journal to help him reach home, once he is able to translate it's odd writings - and at the same time, he helps rescue Yamato from certain death.
Masamoto immediately decides that Jack, Yamato and Akiko should travel to his very exclusive school for Samurai, to learn the way of the warrior. Once there the friends are faced by xenophobia and Jack is ousted as a foreign devil, a gaijin, eventhough he deports himself with good grace and honourable bearing.
A lot happens in this first book and it is written in a very scenic way. I utterly loved it and can't wait to get the rest of the series. The author, in an interview in the back says that he wrote the book in two months, which is no mean feat. It is comprehensively referenced and probably will do for martial arts what JKR did for wizards. I can guarantee you that if you read it, even if you are 75, you will want to take up some form of martial arts. I am certain I am secretly Michelle Yeoh.
It is written with great enthusiasm for its subject matter and the author uses Jack as the perfect foil to demonstrate the differences between the two very different cultures. Through Jack we watch them progress in the school, we experience the rigourous training expected of the young Samurai and we learn a lot about the way of the warrior. These themes are explained meticulously through the teaching of the various tutors in the school. Again, really well done, with a light touch, so it never becomes preachy or in your face.