Series: Katana #1
Published by Flux on 8 March 2012
Genres: YA Fantasy
Skater girl or supernatural samurai? Rileigh Martin wants to believe that adrenaline gave her the strength to fend off three muggers in the mall parking lot. But adrenaline doesn't explain the voice in her head giving her battle tips and warnings.
While worrying that she's going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she's harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.
Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana--a deadly Japanese sword that's also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she's always been and embracing the warrior inside her.
I was perusing the shelves at the library actually in hopes of finding another book when I came across Katana by Cole Gibson. I read the back cover blurb and was instantly interested. I’ve recently been on a “kick-ass female heroine stories” kick lately and loved the samurai tie in with this novel.
The story follows Rileigh Martin, a supposedly normal teenage skater girl. Rileigh’s world consists of her gay best friend Quentin, her somewhat non-existent mom, her job at a hair salon and the crush she has on the newcomer. However one night walking out of the mall with Quentin, she’s attacked by three thugs. Scary right? But Rileigh out of nowhere whips out some awesome martial arts skills and takes down all three guys! The weird part: her skills are from a voice inside her head telling her what to do. Now Rileigh is freaked out that she’s possessed. On top of that a hot martial arts teacher Kim keeps popping up around her trying to convince her that in her past life she was a 15th century samurai named Senshi. As confusing and frustrating as that is, Rileigh has to learn how to come to terms with the voice inside her head, learn how to master her martial arts skills, and help defend herself and her friends from the evil guy from her “so-called past life” that’s threatening everyone in this life. Can she accept who she is in time?
I know that summary seems a little action-movie corny, but the book really was action-packed! Gibson did a really good job of moving the pace of the story along and providing enough action and fight scenes to make the samurai part of the novel believable. Since the novel was written from Rileigh’s point of view, readers were able to watch the fight scenes from her point of view. It was great being inside Rileigh’s mind as the voice took over and her movements began during the fights.
The point of view also enabled the true storyline of the novel: acceptance of yourself. Being inside Rileigh’s mind doesn’t just give us front row seats to all the action; it also lets us inside her thoughts and feelings. Readers watch as she struggles with what’s happening to her. We hear the voice she hears and feel the frustration and sometimes even fear that she feels. On top of that we also get to glimpse into her past life as she experiences memories flashbacks to 15th century Japan during her dreams. I really enjoyed watching Rileigh’s growth through the novel and her struggles to find a way to accept who she is with this new “person” inside her. Gibson does a great job telling the story through Rileigh’s point of view and I think she excelled in writing it.
The other part of the novel I loved was the relationships Rileigh has. Throughout the novel she is definitely torn about her growing attraction towards Kim. She’s not sure if it’s her that likes him or her “past-life” that does. However, she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it and instead immerses herself into training. Gibson does a great job of building their relationship slowly. This isn’t your normal “falls in love/lust at first sight.” It’s refreshing how the focus of the novel isn’t on the relationship–it’s like it’s a side note. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any chemistry at all in the novel. The characters do interact well together and at the right times, the chemistry is there.
Rileigh’s relationship with Quentin is my next favorite relationship. Although Quentin’s character is mostly two-dimensional, he’s a really great friend in this novel. He’s there to support her and doesn’t freak out when she’s trying to figure things out. His character also lightens up the mood during the story, especially when he’s trying to cheer up Rileigh. He does have his stereotypical moments, but with the tone of the novel it doesn’t bother me all that much.
There were only a few small things that bothered me with this novel. I would have liked the rest of the “reincarnated” samurai characters to be less two-dimensional. They seemed to be characters that needed just a little bit more fleshing out. Maybe in the second book? 🙂 Anyways, the other thing that bothered me was Quentin’s reaction to one of Rileigh’s talks. I’m not one for spoilers so I’ll just leave it at that it seemed a little far-fetched believability wise to me.
The surprise I found in the book was with one of the characters. I knew that bad guy was between two characters, but the one who wasn’t a bad guy was a complete surprise to me! I thought they’d at least be both bad 😉 Although, everything was through Rileigh’s point of view, so that could have skewed my thoughts on that as well.
Overall, this novel was a great read! It was fast-paced and enjoyable. I really connected with the main character and loved that! Gibson did an awesome job weaving the flashbacks with the present as well as keeping all the “past-lives” on track! She wrote this novel wonderfully! I recommend it to anyone looking for a strong female lead and a little action. I hope to read the second book, Senshi soon!
My Grade: A-
Amazon Rating: 3.8/5 stars (26 reviews)
What are your thoughts on Katana? Were you surprised by the ending? What are your thoughts on the two-dimensional characters? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you 🙂