Jack Fletcher is on the run.
With no sensei to guide him, he has just his wits and his swords against many new and unknown enemies, as he journeys along the treacherous road to the port of Nagasaki and perhaps home...
But the Shogun's samurai are hot on his trail. Barely escaping their clutches, Jack runs headlong into a trap. Kidnapped by ninja and led to their village deep in the mountains, Jack has no means of escape.
The only question is who will kill him first - the ninja or samurai?
As I haven't read any of the earlier instalments in the Young Samurai series I was unsure if I'd be able to jump in. However, courtesy of a letter to his sister at the beginning, I was up to speed with Jack's journey so far. The book opens headfirst into the action with Jack trying to keep a low profile and get out of the country. However, he's wanted and is soon on the run from other samurai straight into a village of ninjas. Jack's father was killed by a notorious ninja and so he finds that he has to reconcile his feelings and judge those around him by their actions rather than their reputation.
The ninja village is hidden in the mountains, almost impossible to find. Jack decides to stay to learn new skills and hide from the patrolling samurai seeking him out. I found Jack an interesting character; he's thoughtful and caring which is not at all what I expected. There's plenty of high action and gore, some brilliant fighting scenes. Much as I loved these I also enjoyed Jack's growing respect and friendship with Soke the Grandmaster of the village. Soke has a wealth of information to share, not all of which Jack takes on board at the time. Alongside all of this it's clear that not everyone in the village is happy to welcome the stranger as Jack has to battle for respect and acceptance.
High action and intrigue aside I'm pleased to have read and enjoyed this book. One massive reason for this is that it gives me another series to recommend to boys who've finished reading Percy Jackson or Skulduggery Pleasant. I often get parents in the library desperate for any recommendation for their sons and I have a good list of authors that I'd recommend but am always looking for new ones. The Young Samurai series is perfect for the 8-12 age group. There's a warning on the back regarding the scenes of violence but there's more to the series than this and I didn't find them out of place or gratuitous.