Blood Ninja (Blood Ninja Series #1)

( 51 )

Overview

Could Taro, a fisherman’s son, be 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 ...

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Overview

Could Taro, a fisherman’s son, be 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British author Lake's promising U.S. debut takes three of the most overused ideas in fantasy—the boy with a destiny, vampires, and ninjas—and combines them into a highly effective adventure. Marked by destiny, Taro has no idea that he is anything but a simple peasant until ninjas murder his father, driving Taro and his mother from their home. Protected and mentored by the ninja Shusaku and accompanied by his best friend, Hiro, Taro must come to terms with the heritage that makes him invaluable to two lords vying for control of feudal Japan, the revelation that the murderous samurai are not the noble heroes he admired, and his unexpected transformation into a kyuuketsuki (a vampire). While the ending sets up an inevitable sequel, the riveting, often gruesome, action and rich, comprehensible mythology should have readers racing through the chapters. Terry Pratchett wrote that clichés are “the spanners and the screwdrivers in the toolbox of language,” and Lake uses the story's familiar elements skillfully, combining them into an imaginative and original whole. And, really, with vampire ninjas, how can you lose? Ages 12–up. (Dec.)
VOYA - Sherrie Williams
Japanese teen Taro and his best friend Hiro find their quiet lives in a coastal village torn away in one remarkable day. Following the brutal killing of Taro's ailing father, a mysterious stranger joins the two boys in fighting off the attackers and saving his mother. The stranger, Shusaku, is both a ninja and a vampire. Taro dies of his wounds in the struggle, but Shusaku brings him back to life by turning him into a vampire with his blood. Shusaku trains Taro in the ways of ninjas and vampires and sends him on a quest to reunite with his fleeing mother, avenge his father, and find his true destiny (and identity) in a bloody battle between two warring factions for control of Japan. This densely plotted novel features a wide assortment of characters and constantly shifting alliances that might prove difficult for some young readers to sort out. There is a strong emphasis on Far Eastern culture, with less focus on the vampire aspect of the plot. Readers who pick up this book expecting a traditional vampire tale will likely be disappointed to find that their beloved bloodsuckers are given little time in the spotlight. An unexpected twist in the conclusion opens the possibility of more books to follow. This book may not find a widespread audience; however, a smaller but enthusiastic group of readers who enjoy Far Eastern-tinged quest stories—with a dash of vampires and ninjas for flavor—will find much to enjoy here. Reviewer: Sherrie Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Taro wants to be a samurai, but as this story opens, ninjas attack his house and decapitate his father, and he is run through with a ninja sword. All is not lost—he is saved by a good ninja who had to bite him and turn him vampire. Yes, that's right; all the ninjas are vampires. This addition to the dead and undead outpouring is cleverly set in the 16th century at the height of the warring daimyos of the Tokugawa period in Japan. The author makes a good argument for the logic of ninjas being vampires—they only come out at night, they move with stealthlike speed, and they seem to be invincible. In this case, they are vital in determining who will be eventual Shogun as well. Taro and his friend Haro are taken on an adventure with the good ninja, Shusaku, where they learn of and must thwart a plot to have Taro killed because of his true identity. The female characters take a backseat to the nonstop action, and the gruesome details of all the killings and the cool weaponry will mark this as a great "guy book" to counter all the female frenzy around Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series (Little, Brown).—Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Growing up in a small village with dreams of becoming a samurai, Taro never expected to be the target of a ninja attack. Mortally wounded, he is turned into a vampire by Shusaku and begins preparing for his new life, a process complicated by the revelation that Taro is a warlord's son and may be the one to end a deadly feud. Though the Japanese names may initially challenge readers, Lake's characters are well developed and natural, moving about the page and into readers' minds with grace. For all the life-shattering events that happen, however, Taro may seem somewhat too resilient to be true. Taro and Shusaku's discussions over honor and integrity are well constructed, even though the dialogue assumes a didactic tone. The abundance of swords, sneaking and slicing helps propel readers along despite the narrative's occasional slow moments. The dark cliffhanger leaves room for sequels, which will be appreciated by those vampire fans not inclined to follow more romantic bloodsuckers. (Horror. YA)
From the Publisher
“Deftly blends sixteenth-century Japanese samurai history with vampire mythology to concoct a gory and fast-paced adventure that will grab readers...the cliff-hanger ending will leave readers clamoring for a sequel.”—Booklist

“Lake uses the story's familiar elements skillfully, combining them into an imaginative and original whole. And, really, with vampire ninjas, how can you lose?”—Publishers Weekly

“Those who enjoy Far Eastern-tinged quest stories—with a dash of vampires and ninjas for flavor—will find much to enjoy here.”—VOYA

Derek Land
“An elegantly thrilling and action-packed tale of honor, duty, and destiny.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416986287
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Series: Blood Ninja Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 369
  • Sales rank: 383,402
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Lake is a children’s book editor at Harper UK. He received his degree in English from Oxford University. The Blood Ninja trilogy was inspired by his interest in the Far East, and by the fact that he is secretly a vampire ninja himself. Nick lives with his wife and daughter in England.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

KANTO PROVINCE, LORD ODA’S PREFECTURE

SIX MONTHS EARLIER

Taro straightened up, took a deep breath, and pulled back the string of his bow. There was a familiar twinge from his left shoulder, where a thin silver scar traced a semicircle from chest to back, at intervals punctuated by darker circles suggestive of large tooth marks.

This was not surprising—they were tooth marks.

Taro ignored the old pain and lined up his arrow with the fleeing rabbit. He held his breath, concentrating on making the bow an extension of his own body. From an early age he had taught himself to make firing the bow a kind of meditation, believing in his mind that the arrow was already sunk deep in its target, that the only thing required was to loose the string and let it fly.

He loosed the string.

The arrow arced over brown summer grass and met the rabbit as it jumped over a tussock, driving it to the ground.

Taro walked over to the dead rabbit. He knelt and removed the barbed tip, then wiped the arrowhead on the grass before returning the arrow to his quiver.

Taro dropped the rabbit into his shoulder bag and turned for home. He wasn’t far from Shirahama, the coastal village where he’d grown up: He’d come only as far as the first way marker showing the road to Nagoya. He had kept the sea in view, however, and now as he rounded the headland, he could see Shirahama bay, cradled by tall mountains whose flanks were heavily forested with cedar, chestnut, and pine. The simple dwellings of the village nestled on the side of a hill overlooking the sea. The sun was setting, and already a few plumes of smoke rose from houses. It was warm, but there was always fish to smoke, and seaweed to dry for its precious salt, so the fires were always burning.

The air that Taro breathed as he walked through the trees was scented with pine oil and the salt of the sea. Like most of the other coastal settlements in this part of Japan, Shirahama was entirely dependent on the sea. The men went out on fishing boats, the women were ama divers, and both men and women joined great gatherings of seaweed in the autumn, so that from the slimy, bubbling stuff could be burned salt to sell to the nobles.

Taro was not like them. He loved the earth as much as the sea. He had no desire to grow rice, like the peasants of the interior, but he liked to hunt using his bow. As he walked, he cradled the arc of smooth wood in his hand—it was slender and fine, but filled with taut, latent energy. His father had made it for him when he was too young even to hold it, but since then he had grown fearsomely accurate with it, and often employed it to supplement the family’s food stocks with a rabbit or a fat wood pigeon.

The village people didn’t like that—well, except for Hiro.

But the others said hunting was only for samurai, and that peasants like him should content themselves with the bounty of the sea. They said that to kill four-legged creatures angered the kami who walked the woods, Shinto god-spirits who were everywhere in these parts, though the Buddha was supposed to have chased them from all of Japan.

People said a lot of things about Taro—jokingly, and otherwise. They said he was half kami himself, his delicate features and perpetually pale skin out of place in a simple village where rough faces and sunburn were the norm. They said his skill with the bow was supernatural; they said his parents must have gone into the mountains and swapped him with a god at a shrine somewhere. Taro hated it. It wasn’t his fault he didn’t look like anyone else, or think the same way.

And anyway, the villagers were hypocrites. Taro didn’t see why the Buddha should accept the killing of fish and sea creatures but condemn the murder of a rabbit. There was also, deep within him, a dream he could never have shared with the other villagers, nor even completely admitted to himself.

He dreamed that one day he might actually be a samurai; that he might leave this little village to enter the service of the great Lord Oda, fall in love with a beautiful samurai woman, and finally die gloriously with a sword in his hand, refusing all mercy, and tendering no surrender.

There was only one other person in the village who shared Taro’s enthusiasm for tales of war and honor and duels, and that was his closest friend, Hiro. So Taro was pleased when he came out of the woods onto the Nagoya road and saw Hiro there.

On the dusty road that led into the village, Hiro was standing, bowlegged, in a posture of defiance. His massive body glistened in the failing sunshine, naked but for a white loincloth. A heavily muscled traveler was stripping off his kimono and squaring up. By the way he carried himself, he had to be one of the wave-men—ronin—who had been left without allegiance after the colossal defeat of Lord Yoshimoto’s enormous army by the cunning Lord Oda Nobunaga.

Having been conquered in battle, ronin served no lord, followed no code of loyalty, and thus were as the waves—many and masterless, with no purpose and no end. Most of the ronin in these parts had served Lord Yoshimoto, once, but their very existence proved they had refused seppuku after Lord Oda’s victory, and so had lost themselves the status of samurai.

Taro smiled as he watched Hiro limbering up. His friend loved to challenge passing strongmen to wrestling matches—and despite his apparently fat body, he rarely lost. This particular ronin didn’t know what Hiro was capable of—and Hiro was relying on it. The man and his companions would have placed heavy bets on the bout, confident of victory over the chubby peasant.

Taro sat down, ready to enjoy the show.

As Hiro and the ronin circled each other, looking for weak points, the ronin’s companions stood to one side. Taro watched them, curious. Unlike the usual onlookers, they didn’t seem all that interested in their friend’s performance, though from their armor and swords they were clearly ronin too. Instead, they appeared distracted. Taro scooted over a little closer to where they were standing.

“… two puncture wounds, on the neck,” said one.

“And this was where?” replied the other.

“Minata. Just down the coast. The peasant was drained of all his blood.”

The first traveler whistled. “A kyuuketsuki on Lord Oda’s land. It’s a bad omen.” Then, suddenly noticing Taro crouching near him, the man glared and turned back to the fight.

Taro turned away from them as if he had not been eavesdropping, and watched as the wrestling ronin stepped forward and lunged, grabbing Hiro around the neck and waist. But Taro’s attention was now elsewhere, and he watched the fight as distractedly as the two ronin. A man had been killed, that much was obvious. And the ronin suspected a kyuuketsuki. …

Taro had thought that the bloodsucking demons were only storybook things, meant to scare children into obedience, not real killers that could step out of the shadows and kill peasants only three ri from his home.

He felt a shiver run down his spine, and a sense that danger had landed in Shirahama, as large and ponderous and unshiftable as a beached whale. Then he shook away the feeling. No, he was safe there, with his best friend, and there was no such thing as a kyuuketsuki—not outside the old folktales, anyway.

Before him, the ronin threw his weight forward, trying to pull Hiro off his center of balance. Hiro fell backward, and the man gave a roar of triumph, which died in the air as Hiro tucked his legs in, placed his feet on the attacker’s chest, and did a rolling kick, sending his opponent flying across the road. Hiro flipped back onto his feet as the traveler came running at him, his humiliation at the hands of a countryside oaf turning into an anger that blinded him to caution.

The traveler leaped into a jumping kick, aimed at the chest, that would floor even the strongest warrior. Hiro sidestepped neatly, grabbed the traveler’s foot, and twisted, sending his body spinning to the ground. This time the challenger was much slower to get up, and when he got close enough to try a lock, Hiro pinned him easily to the ground. The man smacked his palm on the ground, indicating surrender.

Taro stood and walked over to the improvised wrestling ring. Hiro grinned and pulled him into a hug, which drove the breath from Taro’s lungs.

“All right, big man,” said Taro. “No need to kill me.”

Hiro pulled away, but, as always when Taro’s shoulders were uncovered, Hiro glanced rapidly at the scar running around the top of Taro’s arm, then looked away again, both of them pretending not to have noticed.

Behind his friend’s broad back, Taro saw two of the ronin’s companions muttering, then heard the unmistakable hiss as a sword was drawn. Spinning away from Hiro and round again to face the men, Taro drew an arrow from his quiver and notched it, all in one smooth motion. He aimed the arrow straight at the nearest traveler, who stood with a half-drawn sword and an openmouthed expression of surprise. “Go,” Taro ordered. “And leave your bets here on the ground.” The men frowned sourly but dropped a money purse and walked away, following the road to Amigaya territory.

“Someday,” Taro said, turning to Hiro, “you’re going to pick a fight with the wrong ronin.”

“There’s no such thing as a right ronin,” said Hiro, laughing, his voice deep and sonorous. Both boys were keen admirers of the samurai—noble, upstanding warriors who protected the nation’s lords, who were themselves samurai. They had grown up on tales of bravery and honor; tales of samurai victory against heathen and bandit alike. Many times they had spoken of how one day they would take up swords together.

Yet Taro knew that for Hiro this dream of leaving could remain safely that—a dream, passingly entrancing and then gone, like cherry blossoms in summer. Even though Hiro was the son of landlocked refugees, he belonged there, by the sea, fishing and wrestling.

Hiro had come from the interior, where peasants were grown stockier and heavier than the seaside variety; yet still it was Taro who felt a foreigner in his own land. Hiro entertained a mere fantasy of being one day a samurai. But Taro fervently wished it.

“And anyway,” continued Hiro, “we’ll always be there to protect each other, won’t we?” He gave Taro a look so open, so innocent, that Taro was forced to look away. Hiro was unable to imagine a future where they were not friends and protectors to each other, but Taro feared that to make his way in the world, he might one day have to leave the village. His delicate features had, with age, only become more pronounced and noble-looking, setting him apart from everyone else, much as he tried to be friendly. Hiro, with his ruddy complexion and brawny body, was much more the village type.

Taro knew that Hiro would follow him anywhere. The problem was that deep down, Taro wanted to be anywhere but Shirahama.

“Did you hear what the other ronin said, about the kyuuketsuki?” Taro said finally, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

Hiro looked blank. “A bloodsucking spirit?”

“The ronin said that a kyuuketsuki had killed a peasant near here.”

“Just a silly rumor, I expect,” said Hiro. “Kyuuketsuki don’t exist. And anyway, travelers are always telling outlandish tales.” He set off toward the village. “Earlier, before those ronin showed up, there was a merchant passing through. Your mother was here—traded him some pearls for a bag of rice. He told us a story about a family just down the coast who were killed by ninja. A fisherman, his wife, and their teenage son. Claimed the villagers found throwing stars embedded in their bodies.”

Taro hurried to catch up with his friend. “Ninja?” he asked, incredulous.

The secretive group of black-clad assassins were, unlike the kyuuketsuki, thought to be real. They had been blamed for several assassinations, and it was said that Lord Tokugawa—Lord Oda’s strongest ally—used them often for clandestine missions. But the thought that these well-trained and deadly killers might take the trouble to erase from the world a fisherman’s family was absurd.

“That’s what they said,” Hiro replied. “Like I told you, travelers are forever coming up with ridiculous stories. We’re far into the countryside here—rumors have a lot of space in which to grow and change before they reach our ears.”

Taro grunted assent. But something about this conjunction of claims struck him as peculiar—the idea that, in a single day, there should be talk of both evil spirits and ninja near their quiet little village. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I have a bad feeling about all of this.”

“Like mother, like son,” said Hiro.

“What do you mean?”

“When the merchant told that story, your mother went pale. Ran off back to the village. She would have forgotten the rice, if I hadn’t chased after her.”

Taro frowned. It wasn’t like his mother to overlook something like that, especially where food was concerned. She took great care of the flow of goods into and out of the house, always making sure not to pay over the odds for anything.

“You know what I think?” said Hiro. “I think the ronin want to stir up unrest. You spread a few stories about peasants getting killed by imaginary monsters, and pretty soon no one feels safe. They want to make things difficult for Lord Oda.”

“You’re probably right,” said Taro. “A lot of them served his enemies.” The ronin were known to despise Lord Oda, and to blame him for the loss of the their honor, when Oda’s troops destroyed the armies belonging to Lord Yoshimoto. That war had affected everyone—even Taro and Hiro. It was fleeing the violence inflicted by Lord Yoshimoto’s samurai that had brought Hiro’s parents to the village of Shirahama, like so many other peasants of the interior who’d been forced outward to the coast, and a new life of fishing that they had had to learn quickly, or perish.

But Hiro’s parents had not learned quickly enough, and that was why they were dead.

Taro felt a little better now. Of course the ronin were seeking to destabilize Lord Oda. He was the strongest daimyo the Kanto had ever known, and strong samurai always made bitter enemies. His heroism, his extraordinary ability with the blade, and his genius for the tactics of battle had made him a god to his people, and a demon to those he had defeated. It was said that when he was first named a kensei—a “sword saint”—in recognition of his mastery of the katana, he barely went a day without being challenged by some samurai desperate to make his name ring out over the land. All of them had died.

And when Lord Oda had lost the use of his right arm in battle, he had simply switched his sword to the other hand, and become once again a kensei.

Yes, he was the kind of man who could provoke the weak to make up silly rumors.

Taro shouldered his bow, clapped Hiro on the back, and set off toward the village. He didn’t know that later on that night he would get all the adventure he wished for, or that real adventure was not like the feats he had heard of in stories.

Real adventure involved pain, loss, and blood. Sometimes all at once.

© 2009 Nick Lake

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 51 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 26, 2010

    Fabulous in so many ways!!

    This book was amazing, I never read vampire books, but this changed that. There was a touch of vampire mixed with nonstop action and plot twists. I felt as though I was really there in the story, that's how real he made it sound. The character decription was fantastic and I fell in love with one of them. Then end was most likely my favorite ending ever, because it was dramatic, sad, and it set up for the sequel, which I will be reading soon. If you like nonstop action movies or books, read this, it has drama action, love (a little) confusion, and deception!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good, but a bit slow.

    This was a very good book in the sense that it captured the essence of the ninjas, and the look and feel of that era in Japan. The writing and plot were also very good, though at times the author seemed to forget Taro was a vampire, and some of the characters reasons for doing things were weird or strange for the characters...But, overall, I really liked it! Looking forward to the second one!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I couldn't put it down!

    The brilliant idea behind this book is that all ninjas are also vampires - that's why they only come out at night, and that's why they're so hard to kill. The story follows Taro on a quest to discover why his family are attacked one evening, and why he is rescued from that attack... Exciting, fun, engrossing, and set in the fascinating world of feudal Japan, I recommend this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    HELP!!!

    I am 12 and a half should i read

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Great road read

    Great book. I didnt think i would like it but it was fanstastic read for the road. Cant wait for sequel!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Epic

    This book is a awesome book about ninjas and vampires

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    Love

    Wanted 2 buy this for a lomg time... glad i did finally... waitinf for tha last installment blood ninja 3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    Draco(Dragon)

    He walked over to Zane. He had a tatoo of a dragon that went right up to his eye. It seemed as if it was eating his eye. He put his hand out. "I'm Draco. What's your name?" He asked Zane.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 1, 2012

    The title may seem overrated, but it's a good book. I couldn't p

    The title may seem overrated, but it's a good book.
    I couldn't put it down. Loved the ending!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Yrah

    I LOVEDthisbook

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Nnnnnniiiinnnjjjjaaaasss!!!!!

    Cool book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    This book was brilliant!

    I loved this book when i was finished. Excellent detail and description,i would recomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    awesome!!!!!!!!!

    this book is awesome. vamps and ninjas togather. soo awesome. read it now!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Blood Ninja

    Very good book

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Epic book

    This is the first book that i read in a while and i loved it!!!

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  • Posted June 15, 2011

    Read it

    It is not boring so read it is nice

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  • Posted February 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wickedly awesome

    The book was great. I didn't expect it to be this good. I can't wait to read the next one. I'm just surprised no one else has madea story about vapire ninjas before?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    I dont like how Lord Oda and Yukiko are on the same side!!!

    This was a fairly good book, I enjoyed it. I can't wait for the second one to come out!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2010

    amazing!

    i LOVED this book! i could not set it down.
    even if your aren't into ninjas or vampires, but you love thrilling books, read it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    this book is amazing

    ok so i love ninjas and this book had an awsome idea that ninjas are vamps! i really liked the writing style, and the sensory details. i cant wait for the second book. and if you like this book you might also like the five ansestors series by jeff stone.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews

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