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THE SWORD THAT CUT THE BURNING GRASS


By Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler

Sleuth Philomel, May 2005 ($10.99)
ISBN: 0399242724

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

The popular Samurai books written by the Hooblers are a mix of adventure and mystery written for ages 9-12 (although, truth be told, THE SWORD THAT CUT THE BURNING GRASS held my interest throughout the book and I'm well into my fifties.)

The tale is set in 18th-century Japan. It features Seikei, a 14-year-old apprentice samurai. The emperor is also 14-years-old and has run away, refusing to perform his duties. The shogun sends Seikei after the emperor to try and talk some sense into him and convince him to return to his duties. The shogun reasons that since the two are the same age, that perhaps the young emperor can relate to Seikei and that Seikei may have some influence over the emperor that the older officials don't have.

On the way to locate the emperor, Seikei overhears a plot to overthrow the shogun. The assignment becomes very dangerous. More dangerous than Seikei had expected. Further complications arise when Seikei finds the emperor and then loses him again.

This is the fourth book in the series. Unless the reader has a background in things Japanese (especially names) I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series so as to get to know the characters, the times, and the customs. There is plenty of action in the story and one can enjoy the book without reading the previous books if one is patient, but for young readers, things might be a bit confusing. They might become frustrated and feel like they've begun reading in the middle of a story.

I enjoy Japanese stories and thoroughly enjoyed this tale, even though I'm well past the target age.

Other titles in this series include: THE GHOST IN THE TOKAIDO INN, THE DEMON IN THE TEAHOUSE, and IN DARKNESS, DEATH.

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