Title: Blood Ninja
Author: Nick Lake
Summary: A boy in warring states period Japan (1500s) becomes a vampire after ninjas kill his dad and goes on an adventure with destiny and good ninjas and vampires and nobility.
Gut reaction: It was OK …but later I realized it really sucked.
Why: The writing style is professional and it feels (while you’re still reading) that it’s good but given time to reflect, it’s the worst book ever. It’s very historically inaccurate and the characters get away with all sorts of stuff they shouldn’t.
Who would like this book: people who like Japan but don’t know much about it, people who like cheap vampire novels, people who like fantasy adventures – it’s really a very European story.
Spoiler-filled Rant (don’t read if you intend to read the book):
The book is about an archer boy named Taro who is very handsome and doesn’t fit in with the fisherman villagers of his hometown except for his childhood best friend Hiro who he killed a shark to save. Taro’s dad gets killed by evil ninja vampires but he and his mom are saved by a good ninja vampire. He then also becomes a vampire. His mom goes off somewhere and Hiro goes with him and the ninja, Shusaku, who is actually the most epic ninja vampire of them all, to Shusaku’s ninja village. Apparently all ninjas are vampires. Along the way, we learn about Hana, the daughter and only child of Lord Oda (Oda Nobunaga, a famous Japanese warlord), who is a total tomboy and has epic skills but her dad is evil and going to marry her off to a stereotypically fat old man for political reasons.
Meanwhile, Taro meets this priestess fortune-teller old lady who can see the future and tells him he’s going to rule over Japan. She then gets killed by evil samurai. She’s been taking care of two girls, the smart Heiko, who Taro kind of likes, and the active Yukiko, who Hiro kind of likes. They want to be ninjas. Taro and the others save Hana at one point from evil samurai. Taro finds out he’s actually the only surviving son of Lord Tokugawa (Tokugawa Ieyasu, a famous Japanese warlord and first Tokugawa shogun) and that Oda is evil while Tokugawa is good. (I would like to point out here that the author confuses many historical events into the same time when really they happened to the same person, not two different ones, at least ten years apart, not in the same month. Also, Tokugawa had many children.)
Taro has some stereotypical adventures in Shusaku’s ninja-village-inside-a-volcano that earn him a vampire follower. He demonstrates his mercy and innate epic fighting skills. He also learns of Shusaku’s tragic past, in which he was a samurai lord under Tokugawa but fell in love with a ninja girl who turned him into a vampire and died, leaving him to become an epic ninja leader instead. Shusaku also has the ability to be invisible to all vampires. Taro learns he is the only vampire who can be in sunlight. In the end, Heiko and Shusaku sacrifice themselves for Taro, Yukiko becomes evil, and Hana, Hiro, and Taro go off into the sunset after having killed Oda, only for him to secretly be revived and turn into a vampire.
I would like to point out that both Oda and Tokugawa were portrayed hugely inaccurately. Their personalities and tactics were very off. I won’t go into too much detail, but no one would have minded Hana and Taro getting together because historically Tokugawa’s first son was married to a daughter of Oda, so they couldn’t have done that stupid star-crossed lovers’ thing. Also, while they are at war in the book, Tokugawa actually served under Oda. The ninjas are horribly handled. Nothing about them is explained and they’re very lame. As a ninja fanatic, I was sorely disappointed. The vampires are done well, but Taro should not be able to go in sunlight, that is just poor writing. Vampire shouldn’t be connected to Shinto mythology, because they’re totally the opposite. I mean really, I don’t even like vampires. I was reading for the ninjas. Please, at least do that element correctly.
The ninja village sucked too. The main focus of the book was on honor, and the fact that samurai didn’t have any, enemy ninjas didn’t have any, but Shusaku did because he was both(?). This was poorly handled. Samurai were portrayed historically wrong and so were ninjas. Taro’s personality was very boring and his friends had only archetypes, not fleshed-out senses of self.
Arg, I hate this book.