Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior by L. Benitez
Brief Summary: The Blackthorn clan has ravaged the world of Shaaku Den in search of the ultimate power—the Mekai-Ishi. Only Master Kitsune’s clan stands in their way, led by six brave and hopeful, but untrained, warriors called the Shinobi 7.
The Tsundoku Scale: Middle of the Pile, 7 out of 10.
The Good: I love the characters and the whimsical, self-deprecating comedic tone that they take. Through multiple character viewpoints, Benitez does a great job tight-rope walking the third wall of a story, by making the characters talk almost directly to the reader, without ever disrupting the story’s flow, kind of like the Pendragon or Percy Jackson series. Shinobi 7 always has this great tongue-in-cheek humor that makes it that much more endearing. I love little eight-year old Luna, her off-kilter comments, and how she names everything living animal Jeff, while at the same time she’s probably the most talented Shinobi warrior of them all. I love the dark back-stories of Kuroi and Hanran, and how they struggle to find themselves, while accidentally, and often humorously, they slowly begin to find a home within the Shinobi 7. I love the quiet, caring Cassie, the harbinger of hope, and the soul of the story. I love Akira, the somber but fiery instructor, and her own struggle to hold herself and everything she stands for, together. And I even love how I kind of hate the characters Tabby and Yami (they’re really annoying!) because although they are not as interesting, or talented, or funny, or pretty much useful in any way everyone else, it’s almost like the book’s own inside joke. For the reader, the author herself, and every character in the book remark on how annoying these two can be! It’s not often you find a book that is so self aware of itself and still remains a touching, action-packed, and humorous pleasure to read. Oh, and the hand drawn artwork throughout the book is great, and fits the book perfectly!
The Bad: There are some moments where the story really, and I mean really, exaggerates itself. For instance one day the kids are made to do 500 pushups… as a morning exercise. And another day they run 25 miles, as just a part of a full day of training. Understandably this is a different world with magical powers and tree-hopping ninjas and stuff, but could it really hurt to tone down the feats to maybe 200 pushups or 8 miles? Then there is one girl who is randomly a sugar addict, and it’s a little weird to read about her going through sugar withdrawal and guzzling 600 packets of sugar—particularly when this addiction has no effect on the story’s outcome or the girl’s character. Bottom line, it’s just another exaggeration—I’d have no problem if she just really liked sugar, or had a sweet tooth, but making it into a full-blown, but pointless, addiction is, well, pointless. And speaking of pointless, the inclusion of a few curses were quite unnecessary, given that this book is clearly designed for a young adult audience (probably middle school and lower), and those words could have been replaced by the more child-friendly ones of “crap,” “stupid,” or even “damn.” Once again, exaggeration, exaggeration, exaggeration! But I guess I’m exaggerating too because the novel is still very good.
Please note: I received an ARC copy to write an honest review of this book.