Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins (Little Brown, 2010)
As the medieval period of Japan draws to a close, Moonshadow, a young member of the Grey Light Order, passes the final test of his ninja training. He has learned the arts of various types of combat, he's studied tactics, he can "walk" on water, and he's even been taught to link his mind to animals, so that he can see through their eyes. But is he ready to go on the mission he's been assigned--to capture secret plans from a power-hungry man who plans to destroy the whole warrior code of Japan in his bid for domination? A man who has hired a warrior known only as "The Deathless" to make sure no-one succeeds in stopping him?
Snowhawk too is a young ninja, sent on the same mission. But for her, the price of failure is even greater than shame (and the end of a way of life). If she can't bring the plans home to her own shadow clan, she will be killed.
Moonshadow and Snowhawk are rivals. But the enemies they face are too powerful for either to defeat alone...
In their adventures they demonstrate non-stop ninja fighting skills and sneaking skills and climbing skills (and more) that should prove delightfully entertaining to fans of such ninja-ish things. This is a book I would give in a second to a young fan of martial arts, with ninja dreams...
Which doesn't describe me. There are many, many pages describing violent encounters, and traps, and wall climbing, etc, and I, um, skimmed some of the fight scenes, after the second or third shuriken throw...Yet the book is not without some character development. Moonshadow's training is seen in flashbacks, making him more than just a ninja warrior machine. Not tremendously much more, but enough so that I was engaged enough in his story to keep the pages turning. I would have been even more engaged had Snowhawk gotten more page time; she never quite came alive for me.
(so one walks away from the computer and, lo! The house guest finishes it!
What Charlotte really means to say: If you have a boy reader who wants to read action scenes, give him this novel - and watch him enjoy it!
If your tastes run toward more emotionally dense ninja fiction with fewer fight scenes and more characterization, you may want to give this one a pass.
Here's another review, at The Fourth Musketeer.
(ARC received from the publisher at ALA Midwinter)