August 1611. Jack Fletcher is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan Â– his beloved father and the crew lie slaughtered by ninja pirates. Rescued by the legendary sword master Masamoto Takeshi, Jack's only hope is to become a samurai warrior. And so his training begins. But life at the samurai school is a constant fight for survival. Even with his friend Akiko by his side, Jack is singled out by bullies and treated as an outcast. With courage in his heart and his sword held high, can Jack prove himself and face his deadliest rival yet?
I’m always on the look out for something a little different to any number of titles out there so when I discovered Chris Bradford’s Young Samurai series I was hoping for something pretty impressive but expecting something that would fall short of my expectations.
What unfurled in this first offering was an adventure unlike any other. Its essential Clavell’s Shogun but for the Young Adult Audience and really does it well. The writing is crisp, the characters fully rounded with emotional conflict as well as physical challenges. Great adventure with an author who shows that he plays not only for keeps (there’s a body count within) but one that tips the hat to the better psychological traits that every young person will wish they exhibited. Honour, Courage and Loyalty are the core essentials and ones that pass a message on that many will hopefully hear. Great stuff.
One year of training in samurai school and Jack Fletcher is in real trouble . . . Not only is he struggling to prepare for the Circle of Three, an ancient ritual that tests a samuraiÂ’s courage, skill and spirit to the limit, heÂ’s caught in a running battle with fellow student Kazuki and his gang. But these are the least of JackÂ’s problems. He knows his deadly rival Â– the ninja Dragon Eye - could strike at any moment. Jack possesses the very thing he will kill for. Can Jack master the Way of the Sword in time to survive a fight to the death?
Having loved the first novel, I always know that the second is a challenge that the author will either fail miserably at just sail through relying on the original to keep the reader hooked or surpass the first offering with bags of talent to spare. The last of which is exceedingly rare.
What the reader gets within is a greater understanding of an alternative culture from an author who has a deep understanding of the way in which it not only functions but passes the knowledge on in such a way that its interesting and not an info dump. As with the original, the writing is beautiful, the prose ideal and above all the dialogue between the developing characters not only wonderful but ideal to help ingrain them to a new generation. Chris is definitely a writer to watch.
June 1613. Japan is threatened with war and Jack is facing his greatest battle yet. Samurai are taking sides and, as the blood begins to flow, Jack’s warrior training is put to the ultimate test. His survival – and that of his friends – depends upon him mastering the Two Heavens, the secret sword technique of the legendary samurai Masamoto Takeshi. But first Jack must recover his father’s prize possession from the deadly ninja Dragon Eye. Can Jack defeat his ruthless enemy? Or will the ninja complete his mission to kill the young samurai . . .
Sadly for now, the last offering in the series to date (although don’t worry there is a fourth part arriving later in the year) and one that really doesn’t pull any punches (or weapons for that matter) as the brutal side of the Japanese Feudal system rears its ugly head. Whilst the darkest of the series to date its one that the reader really will have problems setting to one side as this heart in mouth offering will keep you glued to each event as you try to figure out what is going to happen next.
Add to this a breakneck pace, harsh combat alongside honour, friendship and sacrifice which will make this a tale that will tick all the boxes for a vast majority of 11 year old readers. It’s going to be a long wait for the next part but one that will be devoured as soon as it lands in a series that demonstrates that young adult fiction can be as complex as adult and just as rewarding.