Thursday 29 August 2013

Black Tengu

Samurai Kids: Book 8 Black Tengu by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Rhian Nest James (Walker Books)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781922077622
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Cockroaches and Sensei are on their way to the Tateyama Mountains. But that is not where Sensei takes them. They find themselves at Ezo, the island where Sensei grew up. He has carried many secrets with him, some that Niya can’t access with his thoughts. These secrets have stolen the master’s sleep and made him determined to cleanse himself of his demons and free himself of the past.

They are not welcome at Fuyama Castle and Sensei is initially thrown in jail due to his past misdeeds. Lord Fuyama gives him the option of fighting to the death with the Dragon Master, but Sensei is still determined to resolve his issues without blood being spilled. Here we discover what caused the terrible burden of guilt Sensei has carried with him all these years. This is relayed to the Cockroaches with the usual stops and starts in Sensei’s storytelling.

As usual the group faces many challenges, including one against the great higuma bear. Sensei comes away from his village freed from his past but not free of the Dragon Master. The Cockroaches prove that they are now self sufficient and have learned well the lessons taught to them by Ki-Yaga, for they know that he will not always be with them. Niya is given the student, Sakito of the wolf spirit to train, a boy that  fits in perfectly with the rest of the band.

It is after Niya joins Sensei in a purifying fire walk that things shift. Sensei’s role of teacher and instructor ends and the Cockroaches know they are now capable of carrying on without him.

Sensei’s last challenge is to defeat the Dragon Master. But it is Niya’s intelligence, wisdom and courage, learned from his master that resolves the final battle.

 Is Sensei the Black Tengu? This also, is revealed at last.

This is the last book in a sensational series which has conveyed to readers the value of virtue mainly compassion, patience and honour, through its meaningful storyline and subtle prose.

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