HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Samurai Awakening
Author: Benjamin Martin
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing, 2012
Language level: 3 (barely)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Said to be for ages 8 and up, but I would suggest ages 13-15 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Martin, Benjamin. Samurai Awakening (published in 2012 by Tuttle Publishing, 364 Innovation Dr., North Clarendon, VT 05759, an imprint of Periplus Editions HK Ltd.). To what lengths should one go to keep a friend from being changed into a Japanese monster? David Matthews, age thirteen, lives in Phoenix, AZ, with his father and sister, but things are not going well and he agrees at the last minute to become an exchange student in Japan. His host family is the Matsumotos, parents Masao and Yukiko, twin siblings Rie and Takumi, and Grandpa, and they live in Nakano. However, David is unable to speak the language, so he has trouble communicating with his host family, is not accepted by the other students at school, and is generally as miserable as before.
One day David joins the Matsumotos for a local Shinto shrine ceremony when an accident occurs and he is possessed by a Japanese spirit known as a Kami which enables him to speak and understand the Japanese language and gives him new, unexplainable powers. The two together become a “Jitsugen Samurai.” The Matsumotos tell him that they are not only famous sword-makers but keepers of an ancient secret entrusted to their ancestors by the first Emperor of Japan. Now David must begin training with his host family and their neighbor, a girl named Natsuki, who has been his most vocal critic at school, to prepare for his role in saving Japan from a new evil. Then Rie is captured by a host of Japanese monsters who are trying to turn her into a yurei in order to gain power. What can David do? Are any of their friends at school involved? And who will win the struggle?
Youngsters who enjoy exciting adventures based on Japanese legends and folklore will undoubtedly like reading this book. The book moves rather slowly for a time, but the ending is certainly action-packed. The plot may be a little confusing now and then, especially in the beginning, with all the different beings from Japanese mythology—kami, okami, yurei, oni, obake, etc., but it all seems to work out as things progress. I did notice a lot of grammar mistakes, especially for an author who teaches English as a second language, such as “he was laying on one of the portable Japanese beds” and “Maybe we should peak in too.” In addition to a few childish slang terms (“You’d better not suck” and “kick your butt”), David refers to someone as a “ba*t*rd,” and the “h” word is found a couple of times, once as an interjection. Also, I would say that some of the violence, including what happens to Grandpa, is a little intense for the younger end of the target age group, eight and up, although the website calls it a YA or Young Adult novel, which is why I recommend it for ages thirteen and up. Otherwise, Samurai Awakening, intended to be the first of the “Jitsugen Samurai” series, is a relatively harmless juvenile fantasy story.