KatanaBy Cole Gibsen

Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: March 8, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Netgalley

Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline had given her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn’t explain her dreams of 15th-century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger 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.

Goodreads Summary

I grew up with Bruce Lee and David Carradine practically in my living room. If I heard, “I am Caine, I will help you,” once, I heard it a million times – and not from the television during Kung Fu – out of my dad’s mouth, because he thought it was hilarious to use it when any of us kids would come to him for something. But then…then there was Kill Bill.

When a katana-wielding Uma Thurman as The Bride took a whack at Lucy Liu’s head, I swear, I fell a little bit in love. I wanted my own katana. I had dreams of slicing sawdust dummies in pieces, imagining they were enemies (don’t get all judgy). Of course, putting me near very sharp objects usually results with me needing a transfusion so I was never going to be a samurai, you know (hey, no judgy!). My point? From the title to the description to the cover art – this was screaming, “read me, read!” me from the second I saw it and it was everything I hoped it would be.

It’s just a normal, if kind of rushed, shopping trip for Rileigh at the mall with her BFF Quentin when they’re attacked by muggers. Rileigh hears a voice in her head, feels her body doing impossible things and manages to beat all of them up – badly. Her new ability to knock down criminals with a flurry of chops and kicks draws some attention, from a mysterious man named Kim Gimhae, a doctor who gives Rileigh the creeps and Whitley, a boy she’s been trying to get to notice her for ages. Kim cryptically warns Rileigh that she’s in danger, girl, and she needs to come meet him at his dojo.

Rileigh’s response is an emphatic no until she starts getting attacked and weird powers start manifesting. At the dojo, she’s confronted with something more shocking than just what she’s going through herself – there are things bigger than her own fears and issues, things that will be affected beyond just her life if she doesn’t choose to accept this destiny of hers. This is the best twist of the book so I really don’t want to spoil it. I absolutely loved the way it united the past and present so clearly.

Speaking of past and present – the story is told mostly in Rileigh’s present day but there are some small flashbacks to 15th century Japan. It’s mostly of the final samurai battle where Senshi (Rileigh) and Yoshido (Kim), who were in love with each other, were killed. Senshi was very powerful, very much in love with Yoshido and very protective and proud to be a samurai. I could perfectly believe the way Kim told Rileigh a person’s essence could transcend from one body to another through time. It was all pretty romantic (not that it didn’t hurt because they were Yoshido and Senshi) but also the mechanics of it were pretty fun. Lots of weaponry involved.

Every story like this has to have a bad guy and there were a couple to choose from. I wasn’t sure until almost the reveal which one, the author did such a good job of making both of them slimy. The big confrontation had absolutely everything – all of Senshi’s power, Rileigh’s thoughts, attitude and spirit, a power-hungry nutball, huge cinematic action and a weird clueless mother. I had so much love for it, I read it twice.

My Summary: Even though Rileigh’s character is only a junior in high school, she reads much older, so I wouldn’t necessarily think much of that. Yes, this is loaded with some very fun action – I totally cheered all of the beat-downs this girl delivered because they were creative and always well-deserved. There’s also a more dangerous edge, as Senshi manifests to protect the people she loves and the villain tries yet again to separate Yoshido and Senshi. This also has a very sweet, slow romance with a bit of tender aching on Kim’s side. I picked this up mid-afternoon and read straight through dinner without even looking up.

My Rating: A



  1. Hmm, I have a half-interest in this, but the cultural appropriation angle is off-putting. Is she actually a blond Caucasian girl in the book, or is the cover lying? Also, her name was Soldier? Seriously? Ehhhhhhh…

    • Yep, she’s a blonde – and a skater girl. LOL She’s inhabited by the spirit of a female samurai named Senshi. If it helps, she’s only the latest Senshi – over the last 500 years she’s traveled from body to body it’s just this time around Yoshido found her.

      I saw at Goodreads that about half of the reviewers had some problems with this book while half loved it – maybe it’s my love of Lucy Liu getting her head sliced in half that helped me love this so much, I don’t know. I really did enjoy it, but it might not be for everyone.

      • Haha, I like the samurai, too, that’s why it piqued my interest – not much Japanese paranormal out these days that isn’t manga- or anime- related. I like the idea of a wandering spirit hero, too, sort of Witchblade or Slayer-esque. Those things check my interest boxes, lol.

        On the other hand, I think a book that sort of exploits or fawns over Japanese culture like a mad weeaboo might be more rage-inducing than it’s worth, lol. Perhaps some author research is required…

        Still, thanks for the review 🙂

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