‘The Sword of Kuromori’ by Jason Rohan

Motorcycle ninjas. Demons in business suits. Headless vampires. Welcome to Jason Rohan’s The Sword of Kuromori (for 8+ years).

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13-year-old Kenny Blackwood arrives in Japan to do a bit of sightseeing while seeing his Dad. But even before he lands at the airport, things start to get weird. It’s not long before he discovers that Tokyo is teeming with mythical monsters that only he can see – and they all want him dead! Instead of a dream holiday, Kenny finds himself in the middle of a hidden war, one that is about to explode and kill millions – unless he can find a fabled lost sword and fulfil a destiny he never knew he had. And he has just nine days to do it…

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Right from the start, Rohan blends action with humour – and it is perhaps this balance (a little like the Percy Jackson books) that carries the plot along so well. Take this letter from Kenny’s grandfather to Kenny in the first chapter: ‘If I have any advice for you, it is this: believe in yourself; trust your feelings; do what is right, especially when it is most difficult; and always carry a cucumber near fresh water.’ And after reading this letter, Kenny is plunged into an adventure with mythical creatures, secret codes, strange nightmares and a brilliant (and super punchy) female ally, Kiyomi. I loved the relationship between Kiyomi and Kenny – that initially Kenny has to be taught things by Kiyomi, like how to fight: ‘He’s useless,’ she muttered. ‘Teaching him to fight is like putting Poyo on a diet’ but ultimately Kenny and Kiyomi will battle alongside each other against the evil lurking in Japan.

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There is a powerful sense of menace at the heart of the book, as Kenny begins to realise: there is ‘Something huge. Something Ancient. Something evil’ waiting for him… And the creatures Rohan conjures up are truly frightening: ‘rows of sharp, jagged teeth erupted along the length of the tongue and it advanced towards Kenny – sss-puck, sss-puck – lashing the tongue back and forth like a barbed whip.’ The action is fast-paced and clearly drawn, almost leaping off the page: ‘The tennis racquet slammed into the creature’s face; there was a twang of elastic tension and then – whoosh – it rebounded, flew across the room, bounced off the wall…’ But set aside the modern-day action there is a deeper mysticism lying at the book’s core and Rohan draws on ancient Japanese temples in the jungle and legendary dragons imprisoned beneath the earth. The Sword of Kuromori is an energetic and exciting middle grade adventure set in an original setting and filled with brilliant characters – fans of Percy Jackson will love it. The sequel, The Shield of Kuromori will be published this May.

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