Published Date: March 8th, 2012
Finished Date: January 15th, 2012
Format: eARC via Netgalley
Series: #1 in series
My Rating: 4.5/5!!
It was amazing! I think I have finally found the perfect novel with a Japanese martial arts theme. This book is phenomenal! I loved the flashbacks to 15th century Japan, I loved the undying love of the two samurais from the past, and I loved how that loved stayed true and un-cliche even till modern age. Wow.
Rileigh Martin is a skater chick with a gay best friend, Quentin. They were shopping for a gift for the party they were about to attend when they were assaulted by three thugs. They thought they were dead for sure, until Rileigh hears this voice in her head, and her body seems to know how to defend itself - martial arts style. After fending those thugs off, she faints and is carted off to the hospital. Upon waking up, she meets a strange - and very handsome - Asian martial arts teacher who seems to know about the voice in her head. And if her life's not weird enough, she's having flashbacks of a female samurai back in 15th century Japan.
She finds out that those flashbacks are actually memories of her past life, and it's high time Rileigh embrace her identity and accept the help of Kim - said handsome Asian martial arts teacher, and who has a soul-deep connection to her past samurai life - and 3 other familiar faces from the past, or be killed by an old enemy who was reincarnated to the present.
Again, WOWOW! You have no idea how long I've been searching for for a perfect samurai-martial arts novel. KATANA, though not perfect (that's where the 0.5 stars went), is amazing. I love the plot, I love the cast, I love, LOVE the heroine and hero, I love the romance between them, and all the fast-paced action and suspense!
Let me get the imperfect 0.5 stars out of the way first before I start gushing about the other 4.5. There were many stereotypes in KATANA. For one, there was the gay best friend with lots of hugs and pedis and manis even when "Ri Ri" was in mortal danger. And what's up with the incessant "Ri Ri" calling? The first time I saw Q call Rileigh "Ri Ri", I literally cringed! A little over-the-top. Why not Ri or something less....gay? Haha. Anyway, for stereotype number two, there was the fact that our lead guy is Asian. Not that I have something against that (Heck, I'm an Asian myself), but must the male protagonist in a samurai novel be Asian when all his other samurai friends were reincarnated as Whites? Gibsen already said that soul-mates will never be reborn far from each other, so why the big cultural difference? Another stereotype I read from a Goodreads review which said that biker chicks aren't all badass wannabes. We don't have biker chicks here in Singapore, so I'm not sure what they're like, but the ones in KATANA were mean-ass bitches who tried to beat the shit out of Rileigh.
Now on to the 4.5! I have always found the soul-mates reincarnating together and finding their love for each other again very cliche, but in KATANA, it is just so damn sweet. And romantic. Kim Gimhae (this is a Korean name, by the way, not Japanese) didn't force Rileigh to accept him when she went out on a date with some other guy from school, just watch over her as a silent protector. They felt the connection, but Rileigh's afraid of embracing her past cause she thinks that she will lose her modern self, so she constantly pushes Kim away.
I was a little turned off when I realise that the lead male in KATANA was named Kim (even if it's only his first name/surname/family name) - not to mention shocked out of my wits. But I started overlooking the fact as I got to know him. He's a tough warrior, through and through, he's a natural born leader, he's playful and witty when he wants to be, he's kind, and he's very sincere and tender towards Rileigh. But he resumes the tough warrior-natural leader persona during their warrior's training, even towards Rileigh. Rileigh feels pain in her chest one time but Kim signals everyone to continue combating and Rileigh shoots him a dirty look. All in a day's work. Haha. But yes, Kim is an enigmatic warrior who I am very much in *ahem* love *ahem* with. Not only is he hot and a warrior, he's the brooding type of male. Rileigh even made a hilarious comment about it:
"After studying him for a moment, I realized it was a good thing Debbie wasn’t here. She would have signed him to be a model in a second. The brooding types always sold the most underwear."
Rileigh's awesome. She's strong, she's brave, she's funny and sarcastic, but she can be feminine when she wants to be. She's so sarcastic that no-nonsense Kim picked up on it and cracked a few sarcastic jokes himself! When she first met Kim and the other warriors, she was very rude to them. That part was a little extreme, but I can understand cause they lied to her and tried to kill her. But still, it doesn't mean she has to be so rude.. But she's still awesome with all her cool moves.
I really liked that Kim and Rileigh had a deep connection in the past, and their story back then was heartwrenchingly sweet. And heartbreaking. They didn't die natural deaths (being samurai and all), but they died together with honor.
Another thing that I really liked about KATANA was Gibsen's phrasings. There were a lot of descriptions and metaphors that were unique and well, vivid. An example:
"It was too much. I was on sensory overload. My body felt like it held a Ferris wheel with anger, confusion, and fear spinning round and round, each taking their turn at the top. I couldn’t focus enough to organize my thoughts, so I did the first thing that came to mind.
It did get a little immature at times, and there were a few errors, but overall I thought that Gibsen has a special way of writing, and one that I really appreciate. I will only list one of the errors I've spotted cause I know that since this is an ARC, the final copy will be edited. But this one error is a common misconception that people have:
"At the rate of speed I fell, everything should have been a blur. Instead, I saw it all with crystal clarity."
Spot the error? Rate of speed? Speed is a rate. You can't say the rate of rate of motion. But apart from this, the rest are more inconsequential. But there were some that were cheesy (which I think is inevitable for a novel which has romance):
I gave an exaggerated sigh. “It’s not that easy. Whitley is so nice and drama-free. But Kim, the way I feel around him … it scares me. It’s like gravity ceases to exist and he’s the only thing I can hold on to.”
Gravity ceases? Uh huh, ok.
But anyway, I really, really loved KATANA, and I'd recommend this to any fan of action and romance. The action, well the title is self-explanatory, and there's a beautiful romance in here. Even though there were errors and things like stereotyping that I am quite averse to, I think that the awesomeness of it all trumps the bad, so yes, I still like it. Very much. I look forward to its sequel, and there's no doubt that I will grab onto it the moment it - or its ARC :D - is out, and that I'll reread this several more times before that. I urge and beseech you to read KATANA when it releases in March. You will not regret the money, time, and brain space. :)
*eARC courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
PS. This is a looong review.:P