________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 38 . . . . June 5, 2015


The Samurai's Assassin. (Warrior Heroes).

Benjamin Hulme-Cross. Illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2015.
155 pp., pbk. & hc., $13.95 (pbk.), $23.96 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1770-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1766-9 (RLB.).

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Todd Kyle.

** /4



Tatsushi stopped in his tracks, and the mounted samurai grinned down at him with a malicious glint in his eyes.

"Remember!" he shouted, turning away from Tatsushi and addressing the rest of the crowd. "You are all alive because Kenji Kuroda and Hanzo Uchida made a deal. Hanzo Uchida was permitted to take his own life to spare yours. But if you resist us in any way, we will return and destroy you. Your lives belong to us now. Do I make myself clear?"

Nobody spoke. The rider turned his horse around and kicked it into a gallop, leaving Mayuko no choice but to hang on. The samurai and Mayuko disappeared around a bend in the road, leaving Tatsushi wrenched with grief and anger. Watching his folded, heaving body with great pity, Finn and Arthur wondered how they would ever be able to control Tatsushi's urge for revenge. Not only did his father lie dead in the mud, but his sister had been kidnapped right before his eyes.

Brothers Finn and Arthur Blade, protagonists of the series "Warrior Heroes", travel back in time once again to right a historical wrong in order to free the ghost of an ancient warrior trapped inside the museum of their late great-grandfather, Professor William Blade. In this installment, they are tasked with reversing the massacre of Japanese villagers by tyrant warlord Kenji Kuroda after young Tatsushi Uchida attempts to kill Kuroda, breaking a pact made by his late father Hanzo Uchida. Finn and Arthur help dissuade Tatsushi from seeking revenge, instead joining him in defeating Kuroda's tyranny and freeing his kidnapped sister, Mayuko, in a strategic samurai manner. Joined by legendary samurai Akira, the group sneak into Kuroda's castle where they use their fighting prowess to kill Kuroda and convince nearby villagers to rise up against Kuroda's forces.

      A fairly easy and faced-paced read, this British import published in Canada by Crabtree fills a niche for action-packed historical fiction with particular appeal to boys. Interspersed with informative passages about medieval Japan and its warriors, the book paints a picture of samurai fighters as strategic and philosophical rather than violent and vengeful, set against the backdrop of a classic good-vs.-evil struggle, not to mention respect for the culture in which it is set. Chapters are short and to the point, with no lack of action or suspense.

      However, the believability of the story leaves much to be desired. The time-travel and ghosts are, themselves, not problematic—they are common and effective literary devices. But, while the narrator notes the "atmospheric changes that always preceded a ghost's entrance", when the boys first meet Uchida, the narrator omits mentioning in the same scene that the Professor is also a ghost, being already dead according to previous details. No mention is made of how Finn and Arthur can communicate in Japanese, and, in fact, in one scene Arthur devises a plan that relies on him and Finn not being recognized by Kuroda's men, without acknowledging that their European features would arouse certain alarm. When the group reach the castle, Akira accompanies them on a stealthy climb up its walls to the roof, then leaves the pair there to wait while he scales down, arms nearby villagers, then climbs all the way back up to help them continue their plan. Why would he waste time on two climbs rather than having the boys wait elsewhere?

      Overall, the strategy to defeat Kuroda is at many points unclear, and, in the end, seems to rely more on fighting prowess than "stealth" in the samurai way. Yet again, the book fills a niche, and the hyper-realistic illustrations are effective, and the story, while it never hits a groove, is nonetheless full of motion.

Recommended with Reservations.

Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - June 5, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive