Monday, November 30, 2009

Hattori Hachi - The Revenge of the Praying Mantis by Jane Prowse


Fifteen year old Hattie Jackson’s apparently normal life in Camden changes forever when her Japanese mother Chiyoko disappears one night under mysterious circumstances. Hattie is understandably startled to discover that she and her mother are, in fact, the last in a line of renowned ninjutsu warriors and that, if she is to stand any chance at all of rescuing Chiyoko, she must face her ancient family’s most implacable enemy – Praying Mantis. Before she can do that, however, she has much to learn …

Hattori Hachi - The Revenge of the Praying Mantis by Jane Prowse took me utterly by surprise. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Maybe a book filled with a little bit more fluff with a teen angsting about boyfriends, clothes and whatever. Instead what I got was a girl called Hattie (Hachi) who was strong, independent, clever and remarkable in every way. Within the first 3 pages we know exactly who Hattie is, what her parents do, the fact that they used to travel quite a lot for her dad's work (he's a police officer) and that what's normal for Hattie isn't quite normal for us...her mother creates fun and exciting excercises for Hattie and had been doing so since she was a small child: running along high beams, climbing, kicking, punching, running, mental excercises and riddles.

It's only when Hattie's mother goes missing that Hattie realises her mother's been training her to become a ninja. Just like her. And that they are part of a long line of ninjitsu warriors. With the help of the fantastically named Mad Dog (Michael in real life) and their Japanese neighbour who is incredibly adept at disguises and is feroricious in her training of Hattie (her Western name), Hattie strengthens both body and mind. She goes through an entire and very intense training regime whilst trying to a) figure out what's really happened to her mother b) who the viscious enemy really is c) how to overcome the enemy and save her mother and try and fix the awful things the enemy had been doing in the area.

The big question in Hattori Hachi is: who to trust? Nothing is quite as it seems. As Hattie learns more about her inheritance, who she is, who her mother is, her place in the world, we can't help but root for her. Here we have a strong and individual young female character who is sporty, funny, intelligent and knows her own mind. She has a true friend in her BFF Neena and in Mad Dog she has the support and strength and training partner for her ninjitsu lessons. I am very impressed with Hattie, I love the fact that she can kick butt if she wants to but holds back and thinks things through - but not always. I love the fact that she comes across as this strong individual who is proactive and maybe a bit stubborn. She stays true to herself and to her family and most importantly, she believes in her training and knows that her mother would not have started her out on this path if she didn't think Hattie couldn't cope with it.

Jane Prowse has given us our own female Alex Rider. And I can't shout loud enough about Hattori Hachi. There's so much to her that it feels like she should have her own tv show or something. Her escapades around Camden with Mad Dog and Neena are well written - you never get the impression that the author has tried talking down to her audience. There is a strong sense of place and familiarity and Hattie's voice is loud and clear - her motivations easy to read and her enemies suitably scary, twisted and terrifying. It's this that makes Hattie unique and loveable. She's cool under pressure and can indeed kick the butt I mentioned earlier on.

Hattori Hachi is an involved tale of lost family, found family, lies and deception. All in a day's work for the training ninjitsu warrior.

I'd like to add that although most boys would look at the cover and the title and think "girly book" - it's anything but. If you've enjoyed writers like Eoin Colfer and Chris Bradford's Way of the Warrior (Young Samurai), especially when it comes to the action and the training scenes, this is definitely up your street! Hattori Hachi is definitely a 2009 recommended read.

Find the website for Hattori Hachi: Revenge of the Praying Mantis here. The follow-up novel: Hattori Hachi: Stalking the Enemy is due for release shortly.


Rachel Green said...

This looks splendid!
I wonder if it would coax my daughter away from sparkly vampires

Michelle said...

I found this book in my school library and began reading it just the other day.

So far I have loved every bit of it =] and I cannot wait to read the rest.