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Rise of the Ninja (Moonshadow Series #1)
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Rise of the Ninja (Moonshadow Series #1)

4.4 21
by Simon Higgins

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In the moonlight, the explosive fast draw became a horizontal streak of silver, flashing momentarily from the cover of the shadow. The tip of Moonshadow's sword ambushed the lurking foe, who stood, still drawing his own weapon.

It's the dawn of an age of peace in medieval Japan, and a power hungry warlord is plotting to plunge the nation into a deadly


In the moonlight, the explosive fast draw became a horizontal streak of silver, flashing momentarily from the cover of the shadow. The tip of Moonshadow's sword ambushed the lurking foe, who stood, still drawing his own weapon.

It's the dawn of an age of peace in medieval Japan, and a power hungry warlord is plotting to plunge the nation into a deadly civil war using a secret weapon from the West. Enter Moonshadow, the newest and youngest agent for the Grey Light Order, a covert brotherhood of shinobi (ninja spy warriors) who work for the shogun. For his first mission, Moonshadow is sent on a perilous journey to capture the plans for the secret weapon. Can Moonshadow defeat the evil warlord, rogue samurai, professional killers, and another ninja spy to save his country from violent chaos? Or will his first mission also be his last?

This thrilling ninja adventure by Simon Higgins, an expert Japanese swordsman, combines gripping action, humor, hold-your-breath suspense, and even a bit of magic for an exciting and fast-paced read!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this Australian import, orphaned teenager Moonshadow has spent his childhood living and training with the Grey Light Order of shinobi--ninjas. Now circumstances force the Order to make his first mission a critical but dangerous one--infiltrate a castle and steal the plans for a war-changing new weapon. Along the way he faces the castle’s samurai guards; a young female shinobi named Snowhawk, who Moonshadow might persuade to become a friend; and a legendary assassin known as the Deathless, who cannot be harmed by swords. Higgins, a student of samurai swordsmanship, is in top form when detailing personal combat, but also excels at portraying Moonshadow as a young man on the verge of doing great things while still plagued by fears and self-doubt. Moonshadow’s trials are both external and personal--requiring thought as well as action--but he consistently adheres to his teachers’ moral codes and his own ethics. Historical and martial arts details are scattered lightly and buttress the story. Though action is at the core of this tale, Higgins also brings to it history, brains, and heart. Ages 8-12. (June)
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
Orphaned Moonshadow is the youngest member of the Grey Light Order, a secret society of ninja spies in medieval Japan who defend the shogun. With excitement and trepidation, Moonshadow embarks on his first mission: to break into a castle and steal the plans for a deadly new weapon, thereby thwarting a warlord's rebellious plans. Moonshadow may be young, but he's well-trained in ninja fighting skills and the art of disguise. He's also trained in a handy ancient skill known as "the eye of the beast," which enables him to experience what a nearby animal or bird is seeing and sensing. However, he's not the only one after the weapon plans: another (female) ninja spy is after them as well. In addition, rogue samuari swarm the roads and professional assassins are on Moonshadow's trail, including a particularly frightening one known as The Deathless. There's no shortage of danger, action and suspense in this tale of historical fiction, set in the early Tokugawa era, and there's even a bit of magic in the mix. It promises to be the first of a series. The Australian author is an expert in Japanese swordsmanship, and the fight scenes are well detailed. The cover, featuring Moonshadow battling flying shuriken (star-shaped throwing knives), is sure to attract adventure fans to this exciting story. Includes a glossary. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Moonshadow is the newest member of the shogun's secret service. An orphan trained by the Grey Light Order, the young ninja is able to look into the eyes of animals and command them to follow his wishes by using his ki. That remarkable ability and his sword skills are all he can rely on during his first mission, stealing plans for a dangerous weapon from an unhappy warlord who hopes to rekindle war in Japan. Moonshadow must survive not only assaults by the warlord's hired warriors—a gangster, a swordsman, and a legendary ninja—but also by a rival spy, who is a girl his own age trained by the Grey Light Order's most powerful enemies. The swordplay is fast and furious, and Japanese terms and places are integrated in a manner that reluctant readers will find accessible. This adventure is part spy novel, part magic, and all fun.—Alana Joli Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Named for his trademark sword trick, Moonshadow is an orphan and a recently graduated ninja in the Grey Light Order, the shogun's secret service, with special training in the ancient skill of "the eye of the beast," or sight control of complex animals. Combining details about Japan's early Tokugawa era and its warrior culture with action-packed, fantastical storytelling, Higgins crafts a thrilling tale of honor and friendship as the skilled but inexperienced Moonshadow embarks on his first mission. Silver Wolf, the shogun's captain, wants to end his country's time of peace. It's up to the young ninja to steal his plans for a secret weapon that could plunge Japan back into war. But it's no easy task when he finds himself surrounded by rogue assassins, the mythical Deathless warrior, rumored to be immune to sword cuts, and a rival spy who uses her own set of skills to try to capture the plans first. Intentional mysteries in the plot will be revealed as Moonshadow tackles more missions in this new series. Move over, Alex Rider. (glossary, author's note) (Historical fantasy. 9-13)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Moonshadow Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Rise of the Ninja
By Higgins, Simon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Higgins, Simon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316055314


Nemesis Unknown

For glory or destruction. His master’s saying tore through his mind again. Would a blade tear his flesh just as deeply before the night was over?

The sun would rise no matter what, but would Nanashi live to see it? He opened and closed his fists as the grim voice of fear began whispering. It will be destruction, not glory, it nagged him. Tonight, you die.

Taking a deep breath, he drove off the menacing thoughts and opened his eyes. How long had he been standing here in shadow, wrestling with this final wave of panic? Nanashi drew in the air as he studied the dark corridor ahead. By its cool scent, dawn was around two hours away. The moon had finally set. Darkness was his ally now. Nanashi crept to the end of the wood-paneled corridor and sank to one knee. He adjusted the sword on his back, turning his head left and right while he tried to steady his breathing. Stretching his neck, he listened. The chill night had silenced the last crickets outside. Now there was not a sound.

The great mansion was silent too, so he couldn’t afford to make a single noise as he moved deeper into it. A cold breeze snatched sweat from his forehead and the hollows around his eyes. With it, a smell of stale bean soup from the kitchen found his nose. His nostrils flared, heart pounded.

Hearing only its thrumming in his chest, Nanashi shuffled noiselessly up to the twin sliding screens at the end of the corridor.

The heart of the mansion was a series of chambers, their thick walls made up of stained oak planks. Huge gnarled cedar beams crossed each chamber’s ceiling, and the rooms were linked by narrow corridors and sliding screens inlaid with squares of oiled paper.

He hesitated, letting his heart slow, as he examined the runners of the screens before him. Beyond this barrier lay the last two rooms, and the objective he was desperate to reach. His stomach suddenly knotted. That objective would be guarded, perhaps by a team or just one, which would actually be worse. Any warrior posted alone would be their best.

Nanashi drew a small bamboo beaker from a hidden pocket in his black jacket. Easing the cork stopper from the tube, he hunched over one end of the floor slot that held the screens. Nanashi carefully poured water into its runner. As the liquid spread, he silently counted to five.

Tentatively he moved the nearest screen about a hand’s width. It glided with a mere whisper. The water had stopped the screen grating noisily against the runners, just as he’d hoped. It was time. He would not think about the consequences of failure. For clarity, for strength, he would try not to think at all. He set his jaw and tightened the dark head-wrap that hid his smooth face. If he had to fight his way out, the guards would remember only his eyes. If he let them live.

Nanashi sighed. But of course he could not slay them. On this mission, the orders were rigid. Retrieve the documents. Take no life. No doubt Mantis had a hand in framing these rules. Him and his views! He’d get them all killed one day with that stuff. Nanashi pictured Mantis’s gaunt face, his deep, ever-changing eyes: one moment hard with fierce resolve, the next glowing with pride bordering on tenderness. And, in almost every glance, a hint of sorrow. The boy momentarily hung his head. Mantis’s beliefs made everything twice as hard! Nanashi wrestled his mind toward stillness and drew in the chilled pre-dawn air. Though veiled by cloth, his nostrils flared sharply.

Inside a nearby room, perhaps just two walls away, someone was sweating hard. The scent was of either an older man with a bad cold or a young, very fit man filled with tension. Both smelled the same to dogs, wolves, and foxes. And to Nanashi.

Training had not given him the heightened sense. It was what Groundspider called a “residue.”

Nanashi had been trained in an ancient skill named the eye of the beast. At times, when he focused his mind on a nearby animal or bird, he could see through the creature’s eyes, use its superior hearing, its powerful sense of smell. When that particular “sight-joining” was over, most of the beast-abilities quickly faded. Sometimes they lingered on in Nanashi after sight-joinings, serving him as the heightened sense of smell did now, but he knew that all such “residues” could vanish, without warning, at any time. If he relied too much on one during this mission then it abruptly faded—he stopped himself before that idea made his stomach twist into a new knot.

He gently opened both sliding doors. With the night-sight his special diet had given him, Nanashi scanned the unfurnished room ahead.

It was rectangular. A high, beamed ceiling. Plain side walls of dark-stained wood. Tatami floor… all reed matting. A single paper-covered sliding screen door broke the far wall. Still no sign of guards, but the scent of sweat was stronger now. It came from beyond that single door.

Nanashi carefully lifted one foot and made as if to enter the room. A detail just a few paces away caught his eye. He froze, stifling a gasp. Nanashi studied the floor of the room ahead. Strange little shadows. His heartbeat grew loud again. That was close. Watch it, he ordered himself, there’s no margin for error here. You almost walked into a trap!

The floor was covered with neat, even rows of iron tetsubishi: sharp triple-spiked foot jacks, caltrops whose tips were probably flecked with poison. They were painted a straw color to make them blend in with the tatami. Nanashi slid the soft backpack from under the sword on his back and eased a bolt of rough black cloth from it.

Lining up the long axis of the roll carefully with the distant screen door, he leaned into the room and flicked his wrists. The bolt quickly unwound in a straight line down the center of the tatami. Thinning as it turned, the spool crossed the floor with a faint hiss. Nanashi watched it, breath held. It ran out roughly three long strides short of the door. A complex potion smell, with hints of both persimmons and seaweed, escaped from the cloth. Though pungent, Nanashi was glad of its presence. Any spike penetrating the cloth shield would be coated with the dried potion, an antidote for tetsubishi poison. Most shadow clans soaked their tetsubishi in a formula that paralyzed, in order to capture a victim alive. It was no act of mercy. Only the living could be interrogated and forced to give up their secrets. Forced, it was said, with potions that unhinged the mind, and methods more dreadful still, which every spy deeply feared. Torture, by blade or fire.

Nanashi had made it this far, at least. This was the final door, if old Badger’s archives were accurate and unspoiled. One could never be sure. The librarian’s pet monkey had been known to deface his maps and charts in a variety of unseemly ways, and Badger, though he could speak and read in most known languages, was often unwilling to interpret his own charts for others. “You work it out, boy,” he’d told Nanashi a hundred times, “or your lazy brain will dry out like kelp flung on the rocks!”

Nanashi shook his head. Thanks, Badger! Well, last room or not, he couldn’t leap quite that far, from cloth to door frame—not at that angle, anyway.

Moving on all fours, Nanashi padded slowly along the strip of cloth, spreading his weight evenly, testing each spot first with light, probing cat steps. As he put more weight on the thick, dense weave of the fabric, it caught and held the points of the surrounding tetsubishi. He paused, staring down nervously at his black highway. What if just one drug-coated tip burst through the cloth without being properly neutralized? Nanashi closed his eyes for only an instant, then forced himself forward.

He reached the end of the cloth and smoothly drew his sword from its scabbard on his back. Balancing on the edge of the tough weave, Nanashi stretched forward. Using the flat of his sword, he gently swept left, then right. With a soft tinkling, tetsubishi were flicked aside. He stood slowly, then took a wary step onto the new strip of floor he had cleared, sword held out before him, its tip hovering at throat height. Nanashi squinted at the path ahead, took three quick steps, and launched himself at the door.

He cleared the last tetsubishi, landing without sound in a crouch before the paper-covered screen. Nanashi glanced around, sheathed his sword, and once again carefully poured water into the floor slot to silence the screen runners. Then he rose to his feet, counting slowly as he redrew his blade. With its tip, he gently slid the door open. His nostrils flared again. The final chamber. So much would turn on what happened next. His heart beat out the rhythm of the words that had haunted him since sunset.

For glory or destruction. Now he would learn which would rule his fate.

This room, also a rectangle, was not completely empty like the last. Plain, dark wood walls, high ceilings with natural beams as before, but this final chamber also held a single piece of furniture. A squat Chinese-style writing desk stood at the far end under a shuttered, bolted window: a desk of stained cedar, a pressed gold hexagram on one side. Just as the plans had promised—the documents must be here. Nanashi’s mouth went dry.

As always, he studied as much of the room as he could see before entering. No sign of any traps. The sweat smell was so strong here, there had to be a guard, coiled and ready to attack, tucked into one of the closest corners. But which one? And was there only one guard? Faint gnawing sounds came from behind the writing desk. Nanashi smiled as he smelled a rodent. His enhanced sense of smell, the residue of that last sight-joining he had experienced, was still working. How helpful! Some scribe had eaten here recently, and a mouse was seeing to the crumbs the maid had failed to notice. He sank to his knees and rested the sword across his thighs. Staring into the darkness, Nanashi aimed his mind at the source of the noises. His hands trembled momentarily. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. The gnawing stopped. There was a soft scraping sound. Nanashi grimaced and pinched his nose: the odors in the room were suddenly overpowering.

The mouse crept out from under the desk, whiskered nose twitching fast, tiny twinkling eyes flicking up at the doorway.

As if now seeing through a thin, quivering layer of water, Nanashi saw, as the mouse saw, his waiting nemesis, crouching to one side of the doorway. This was no ordinary guard. The fellow wore a dark cloak and hood. Black unmarked armor showed beneath it. His head turned sharply as if he heard or sensed the mouse’s movement. Nanashi’s heart began pounding louder than ever. Inside the enemy’s hood glittered a mesh veil. A straight sword hung on his back, assassin-style, but he also carried a hardwood bo staff. He was a big man too.

Nanashi reclaimed his sight from the rodent, forcing his own eyes to open. The usual fleeting moment of confusion jarred him, then he focused on the writing desk ahead. Just as his sharpening vision located the mouse, it looked up, then twisted and fled under the desk. An instant later he saw a blur of movement through the doorway, heard the swish of a whirling bo.

With blinding speed the strange guard sprung into view. He bounded forward, filling the doorway, swinging one end of his staff at Nanashi’s head.

Nanashi barely dodged the blow. A wave of displaced air struck his eyes and he flinched as the staff hit the sliding door beside him with a loud thwack, snapping the wooden edging, tearing through paper squares.

Before Nanashi could respond, the attacker pulled his weapon clear then deftly drove it into a fearsome, humming spin. The bo’s tip became a blur, closing with Nanashi’s temple!

Nanashi ducked under the whistling tip of the hardwood staff, then tumbled forward into a tight roll, brushing past the guard’s leg and into the last room. Staying low, he turned and swung a cut at the guard’s legs, but the bo ceased turning and dropped hard and fast to block the blade, which bit deeply into its wood. Wrenching his sword free, Nanashi rose, skipping backward to the writing desk, eyes wide at his enemy.

This man was both skilled and ferocious. That bo gave him too much added reach. It had to be neutralized! But how?

The attacker heaved a breath, then dashed across the room, spinning his staff again, moving quickly for one so large. Nanashi shuddered and braced for impact. His opponent bore down on him. The hardwood staff sang through the air, closing horizontally with Nanashi’s neck. His heart thundering now like a drum, he parried upward with the flat of his sword, darted in closer, and aimed a powerful angular cut at the staff itself.

There was a dense splitting-tearing sound, then the bo clunked to the floor as two midget staffs. The large guard spun away in a circle as he drew the sword from his back with startling fluidity. Raising it in a two-handed grip, he started closing the distance between himself and his target at alarming speed, sword whistling as it arced in the air above him, tip poised to fly like lightning at Nanashi’s forehead.

The smell of his own frightened sweat filled Nanashi’s nostrils as he prepared for the response he knew best of all. A crafty set of moves, practiced a thousand times until they had become part of him. Now, his best hope of survival!

Turning one shoulder to the oncoming threat, Nanashi took up a low stance and faced an empty spot off to his opponent’s side, daring the foe to take advantage of his awkward position. Only his eyes remained on course, locked straight ahead, judging the scant moments left before the attacker was close enough to strike.

Suddenly he was.

With desperate control, Nanashi rose fast, turning to face his opponent head-on and pouncing forward. The sudden turn and the change in both height and distance all combined to ruin the guard’s timing. Before the man could slice downward, Nanashi’s sword glided up into a fast, hard cut aimed at his raised forearms.

The blade bit home, folded steel grinding against concealed gauntlets. Focusing his balance and energy, Nanashi pushed with a muted grunt, forcing his opponent one step back. One step would be enough, if he could only make it count. He gulped in air, terrified of making the smallest error. Keeping pressure on the enemy’s gauntlets until the last second, Nanashi whipped his blade back, then drove a powerful vertical cut down at the man’s cloaked shoulder. A riskier target than his head, but the orders were to take no life.

The guard hoisted his sword into a strong block, but was a shade too slow to meet the incoming slice. There was a muffled clang, a sound of tearing cloth. Nanashi’s blade glanced off the man’s shoulder. The sword sliced open the guard’s cloak, revealing the armor underneath, before flailing off to one side. Seizing his scant chance, the guard turned his own sword and lunged, blade leading the stretch of his long arms.

Suddenly the cold flat of its steel pressed at Nanashi’s sweaty neck. He froze, lowering his sword. The guard had him!


Excerpted from Moonshadow by Higgins, Simon Copyright © 2010 by Higgins, Simon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Simon Higgins is the author of the bestselling Thunderfish trilogy which was a Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book and also the Jade Draper series. He is an expert in Japanese swordsmanship and lived in Japan for a number of years.

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Rise of the Ninja 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i like this book for its description and story...worth buying
Conner Sitton More than 1 year ago
yo you want best book ever try rangers apprentice
Janetta Young More than 1 year ago
It will keep you okn the edge of your seats. It is the most exciting thrill ride of your life. With all the action you don't want to put this book dow. It is that AWSOME!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive already read this book and am in the process of getting the sample for my twin. I loved this book. I finished it in three days. For a gamer to read than to play the playstation two or what ever game system. I love this book and i know ever one will like.if you like ninjas this is a good book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So cool that i finealy found a book
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Nippon-Mama More than 1 year ago
My ten year old daughter loves most things Japanese due to our bloodline. This seems to include this book \^o^/
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing book. Is there a third?