Author: Nick Lake
Publication: November 17, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Summary taken from goodreads:
Is Taro, a fisherman's son, destined for greatness?
In the course of a day, Taro's entire life changes: His father is murdered before his eyes, and Taro is taken by a mysterious ninja on a perilous journey toward safety. Someone wants Taro dead, but who -- and why? With his best friend, Hiro, and their ninja guide Shusaku, Taro gets caught in the crossfire of a bitter conflict between rival lords for control of imperial Japan. As Taro trains to become a ninja himself, he's less and less sure that he wants to be one. But when his real identity is revealed, it becomes impossible for Taro to turn his back on his fate.
3.5 STARS - I LIKED IT
I really enjoyed this book once I got over the rather slow beginning when Taro stubbornly believed his ideals of samurai and honor were exact, only black and white. Luckily, as time wore on and with the help of friends and first-hand experience, Taro's world expanded and he was a much more likable protagonist.
And Shusaku, the ninja who saved Taro and later trained him, he was awesome. While Taro couldn't trust him at first, I knew that he was a great guy. He was a complex, secretive character; his actions had reason. He didn't kill anyone for the sake of eliminating a possible future hindrance. He did not deserve what happened to him. Arghhhhh. I can't even.
The other characters were also fleshed out and convincing. They all had their own motives and reasons for what they did, and that is why it was so hard for me to hate any of them (well, besides Lord Oda and Kawabata; they were just bloodthirsty and power-hungry). When the author uses dramatic irony to depict hidden scenes that the protagonist is not privy to, the audience gets to understand the motives and actions of other characters in the story, and it's hard to not feel pity for a boy who's father routinely beats and insults, even if the boy is insufferable in the beginning.
In addition, because of the dramatic irony, the audience also gets a better understanding of just how twisted the plot becomes near the end, when paths intertwined and everything was starting to finally connect. Of course, this is a series, so the ending ended with a sort of cliffhanger. But it wasn't like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, which had the cliffhanger of doom; Blood Ninja's ending wrapped up quite well, but with Lord Oda's plans in the last scenes, you would have to pick up the next volume to see what happens next.
Onto another tangent, I really liked the writing in this book. It flowed so well with the setting. With the cherry blossoms, weapons, and Japanese words sprinkled throughout the book, the setting was beautifully rendered, and it felt authentic.
And the fact that becoming a ninja meant turning into a vampire was also an interesting twist on two popular archetypes.
I would definitely recommend this book to any Japanese fan or anyone looking for action and adventure.