Finished Date: May 3rd, 2014
Series: Katana #3
My Rating: 3.5/5
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*Received a retail copy from NOQ Store*
As far as the history of conclusions goes, SHIONOBI isn’t the best of conclusions for a series, but I think it’s still pretty darn awesome.
With Sumi’s and Kim’s memories gone, Rileigh plunges herself neck-deep into Order missions. Drown out the pain, get her mind over the fact that Kim doesn’t remember her anymore. As Rileigh celebrated graduation day with her motley crew of ex-samurai and best friend, Quentin, Kim makes an appearance and they find out that he has regained his memories – and so did Sumi.
I can’t even begin to describe how much trouble Rileigh and Q gets into because of Sumi’s new evil scheme, but I definitely didn’t expect it at all! Three-quarters of me loved the new twist, but the other quarter… It’s like how a protagonist gets out of a situation with a then-and-there newfound power. Sort of like Ms Cole is taking the easy route for an exciting new plot? It’s similar to how I feel about Sumi’s electric magic. I understand if a villain has magic in X-Men, but not in the world Ms Cole has created. It’s a stretch for me to understand Rileigh’s Ki powers because there are texts and stories about chi flow and whatnot in Chinese (or was is Buddhist?) history, but not electricity, zapping powers. Just…no. Then came this soul-switching thing? Even though this is an urban fantasy? I don’t think so.
I love the increase in screen-time for Rileigh and Kim! Even through unprecedentedly difficult circumstances (and I’m not even kidding/exaggerating), Kim shone like a true samurai in shining armor (I know it’s lame, but hey, I got my point across). His name still chafes at me – I mean, why can’t they just call him Gimhae which is his real name, instead of calling him by his family name – but my respect for him just tenfold-ed. One bad point for more Ri-Kim time was that we didn’t get to see much of Braden, Drew and Michelle, and they sort of faded into the background. Their characters and personalities pretty much hollowed out and they became very 2D and generic as secondary characters.
Whitley’s role in SHINOBI took on greater significance, and kudos to Sumi for new levels of creativity and desperation! Though with the continued flashbacks to Japan in the 1490s, I’m starting to understand the hatred and desperation in Sumi…and to empathize with her. There did come a point where I resented Gimhae more than Sumi, and that’s a plus point to Ms Cole’s great writing. Sumi, or rather Chiyo, did whatever she could to survive even after months of torture (yes, it was gruesome), but Yoshido judged her for it. Dude, you didn’t even make an effort to search for her body after news of her supposed death reached you, and you judged her for becoming the head of the bandits? Not cool.
The flashbacks were haunting and beautiful, and shed so much light on the complex relationship between our protagonists. I’m not usually a fan of dual-time writing styles, but I thought it really enhanced the story in the case of SHINOBI. One final adventure for Rileigh & crew, with lots of twists and plot curves that is as unpredictable as it is exciting. This is a short novel and KATANA is still my favorite, but I’d recommend SHINOBI to fans of the series or to otakus (anime-lovers) like myself!
P.S. I’m still bitter about Gimhae being called Kim. Every time I think Kim, a girly man pops into my head.
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I actually did an interview with Cole after I read SENSHI, which was way back last year when it was just released in March. I wanted to post it to celebrate the release of the book, but alas, school work was crazy cause it was my A Level year last year. So I wanted to post it together with my SHINOBI review when it was released, but...yeah enough excuses. (Cole, if you're reading this, I'M SORRY!!)
Anyway, Cole was so kind to agree to an interview, and she was SO PATIENT with my many questions. So, without further adieu.
Connect with Cole:
Author Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
An Interview with Cole Gibsen
CYP: Hi Cole! Thanks for coming over to the blog today!
1) First things first, tell us a little about yourself. Something that cannot be found on the Net or maybe something that even your family doesn't know about?
Cole: I’ve taken up the blues harp. I started taken lessons over a year ago. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the harmonica and the blues that has always called to me. At first, I felt a little silly, but now I’m so glad I decided to learn. It’s so much fun!
2) What are some of your interests/hobby? Do they have any connections to how you came up with the KATANA series?
Cole: I’ve taken martial arts for years, everything from akido to kick boxing. And if there’s one thing I learned while taking martial arts, it’s that I’m really bad at martial arts. It’s much safer (and less painful) to write about it instead.
3)What is the story behind the series? The inspiration behind it? Was it like a BAM kind of thing, or did the storyline slowly flow to you as you did or looked at something?
Cole: The idea for the KATANA series came to me one night after having my butt kicked in taekwondo. I remember nursing my black eye with an ice pack and looking up at a poster of Bruce Lee on the wall just wishing his spirit would possess me long enough so I could finally win a fight. Needless to say, that never happened.
(LOL, awesome start to an awesome series! XD)
4) How about the characters? Was Rileigh an imitation of a friend? Was Kim Gimhae (SQUEE) based on your own fantasies?
Cole: Rileigh was based on the girl I wanted to be in high school; funny, snarky, and for the most part, confident. And Kim, well, you could definitely say he was based on a fantasy of mine. *grin* I’ve had a long-standing crush on Bruce Lee and it definitely leaked through to the pages of my book.
5) Did the magic element of Senshi come with the original plot? Or was it something you thought of along the way to spice things up a little? (Mainly about the electric thing going on for Whitley in Katana and now his reincarnated employer)
Cole: I was inspired by the many books I read on historical Japan. Magic and mysticism were a big part of their belief system. Even today, you can search for videos on Youtube and find men lighting fires with ki energy alone. It’s amazing!
6) How many books are you planning for the KATANA series? (Please say you don't see an end in sight yet.. :D)
Cole: Ha! So far there are three planned…but I would never say never. *grin*
(PLEEEZZZZZZ let there be more!!)
7) Which character do you like to write the most? Which character did you like the most? Which one turned out the best, in your opinion? Did the plot and characters turned out the way you wanted them too?
Cole: Like any author, I think all my characters are fun to write. But my favorite scenes are the ones with Rileigh and Whitley. There’s something about that “I hate you but I need your help” relationship that is so much fun to put down on page. For the most part my characters behaved, but when I wrote book three, someone betrays someone else and even I had no idea that was coming.
(Ri and Whitley kinda reminds me of Allison and Jackal in The Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa...kinda...)
8) Just a random thought, but why make Kim the only Asian? Why not all be Americans or more Asians or more nationalities?
Cole: It was important to me to show that that spirits were genderless and raceless. That’s why Michelle, who was male in the first book was female in the second. In my world, gender and skin color doesn’t matter when you reincarnated. Bodies are just shells and the only thing that remains constant was a person’s spirit. I actually had more nationalities in the first draft, but my agent at the time was concerned that was far-fetched and too convenient. Looking back on it now, I wish I would have kept it.
9) Are there any tidbits about future installments that you can share?? ;D Or any deleted scenes that you want to share?
Cole: Book three was my absolute favorite to write. In it, I answered a lot of hanging questions and revealed the origins of one of my most hated characters. It was important for me to show my villains didn’t wake up one day and decide to become evil. It happened gradually and with good reason.
10) I'm suffering from withdrawal now that I've finished reading Senshi... Do you have any good book recommendations that are similar to your series? What are some of your favorite books/series/authors?
Cole: Oh my goodness, yes! There are so many great Asian-themed books recently out and coming out. A few to check out are INK by Amanda Sun, THE TOKYO HEIST by Diana Renn, STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff, and JET BLACK AND THE NINJA WIND by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani.
(Definitely check out Stormdancer. It's one of the best YA Fantasy/Steampunk I've ever read.)
11) What made you start penning down all these crazy stories?
Cole: I always wanted to be a writer, but I lacked the self confidence to try. It wasn’t until the economy ate my small business in 2007 and I was faced with unemployment. Suddenly I had to figure out what to do with my life. I figured, if ever there was a time to write, this was it!
12) Another random question, do you watch anime or read any manga series??
Cole: I haven’t in awhile. I’m so ashamed. I think the last manga I read was the Vampire Hunter series. But I do have a running subscription to The All New X-Men. I get a lot of my inspiration from comics.
(Personally, there's this manga series called Shinobi Life I stumbled upon accidentally when searching up SHINOBI on GR. It's GREAT!! I gobled up all lordknows how many volumes in 2 days.)
Rapid fire questions!
1) Pen and paper or Microsoft?
Cole: Definitely pen and paper for outlining and a keyboard for actual writing.
2) Asian folklore or Middle Eastern myths (think Greek, Roman and Egypt)?
Cole: ASIAN ALL THE WAY!
3) Hot chocolate or whiskey?
Cole: I’ll take a beer. *grin*
4) Favorite movie?
Cole: This changes daily. But as of now, The Avengers.
Thankyousomuch, Cole! :)
And thanks, everybahdy for visiting the blog! Do y'all like ninja stories? Any favorites/recs? :))