Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Debut author Bradford comes out swinging in this fast-paced adventure set in medieval Japan, the first in the projected Young Samurai trilogy. Twelve-year-old Jack Fletcher has gained a reputation aboard a British merchant vessel as an agile rigging monkey. But after Japanese ninja murder the entire crew, including his father, Jack is left alone and injured to cope with strange customs and indecipherable language. When he shows his fortitude and cleverness, however, a powerful samurai adopts him and sends him to learn the ways of Japan's warrior class. Jack's story alone makes for a page-turner, but coupling it with intriguing bits of Japanese history and culture, Bradford produces an adventure novel to rank among the genre's best. The intricate and authentic descriptions of martial arts contests will hold readers spellbound. Just as potent for many readers, though, are the outright hatred and prejudice Jack faces as a gaijin, or foreigner, while he attempts to master an elaborate code of honor. This book earns the literary equivalent of a black belt. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-9-Jack Fletcher, 12, works as a rigging monkey aboard the Alexandria, while his father pilots the British vessel. Near the Japanese coast, the ship is attacked by a deadly band of ninja. Before he dies, Jack's father entrusts his son with a book of coded maps that others will kill to possess. Though Jack suffers a grave wound in the ensuing battle and is left for dead, a samurai named Masamoto saves the boy, eventually adopting him. Readers can't help but empathize with Jack through the months that follow as he learns the language and how to fight with a wooden bokken, struggles to master the intricate Japanese culture, and deals with bullies who consider him a gaijin, a barbaric outsider. He survives a fight with a ninja intent on killing him, and, at 15, takes part in a fierce martial arts competition that affects the honor of Masamoto and his school. With Samurai, Bradford has crafted a detailed story full of riveting elements: instant enemies, sworn friends, unfortunate misunderstandings, and ultimate forgiveness. He includes notes on sources for various quotes used throughout; though several are anachronistic, their spirit is essentially Zen. A fast-paced adventure and a fascinating look at 17th-century Japan.-Bethany Isaacson, Wheaton Regional Library, Silver Spring, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In 1611, a British merchant ship bound for the Japans is attacked by ninjas, and the lone survivor, 12-year-old Jack Fletcher, is taken into the home of a revered samurai. After dispensing with Jack's initial sense of being lost in a new culture, the story dives directly into what teenaged boys will be looking for: fighting, and lots of it. The action comes fast, and Bradford writes with the authority of a black belt which he happens to be and a genuine respect for the subject. The minutiae of Jack's samurai training are conveyed with clarity and plenty of bravura, and while the central conflicts in Jack's path tend to be shallow and fairly telegraphed, the clashes they lead into are deeper and more satisfying. Employing a wide range of Japanese terms will have the dual effect of drawing readers intrigued by Japanese culture into the story, while dispelling the interest of those less enthusiastic. But it's hard to fault an author for authenticity, and this first historical adventure in what promises to be a series shows definite promise.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2009 Booklist
Horn Book Review
After his ship is attacked by ninja pirates, Jack finds himself stranded in "the Japans." He's taken in by a powerful warrior family, but as the gaijin (foreigner) son, he must prove himself as a warrior to quell prejudice and be fully accepted. The setting is vivid and the action fast paced; Japanese words are included throughout, making the appended glossary useful. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
In 1611, 12-year-old British sailor Jack Fletcher's ship is attacked by ninjas, and the entire crew, including Jack's father, the ship's pilot, are killed. Jack is saved by the samurai Masamoto Takeshi, who adopts him because they have a common enemy: The same ninja who killed Jack's father killed Masamoto's eldest son. Jack becomes a student at Masamoto's school. He makes a few friends and does well in training, but he has to endure cruel teasing, only finally winning respect by prevailing in a school competition and repelling another attack by the evil ninja Dragon Eye. Bradford's first, the start of a projected series, is a mixed bag at best. The few exciting scenes are outnumbered by lengthy lessons, and modern phrases destroy the historical ambiance. The artificial tension created by cliffhanger chapter endings is regularly undercut by a leap ahead in time at the beginning of the next chapter. Spend your samurai dollars on the vastly superior Seikei and Judge Ooka series by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Despite the website hype, this is a commonplace James Clavell knockoff for kids. (Historical fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.