THE BLACK LOTUS by Kieran Fanning

Eoin Colfer is a pretty big deal in the children’s book world (Artemis Fowl, WARP etc) and so when Moontrug saw his comments on Kieran Fanning’s debut for 8+ years (‘A powerful new voice in children’s fiction. I loved this book’) she knew she had to do some investigating…

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Ghost, Cormac and Kate are junior recruits of The Black Lotus, a training school for ninjas. But when the Moon Sword – a source of unimaginable power – is stolen by an evil Samurai Warrior, the three are forced to battle through sixteenth century Japan and present-day New York to stop him from destroying the city.

The book opens with Ghost’s recruit into The Black Lotus. Fanning conjures up both the smart apartments and frenetic favelas of Rio De Janeiro and they provide the perfect backdrop for a fast-paced opening scene. Ghost’s super-power is excitingly evoked and the arrival of a one-eyed man at the end of the chapter ensures the plot is full of intrigue. Moontrug particularly liked the way Ghost wasn’t a straight-up wonder kid – his past is full of secrets and sadness (‘a favela kid: tough, strong and full of secrets’) – and Fanning evokes his sense of loss with real heart. In fact, all of Fanning’s characters have depth and quirks and children will love the friendships that lie at the core of the story – they reminded Moontrug of the kids in Andy Mulligan’s novel, Trash. Recruited from an Ireland run by deadly Kyatapira, Cormac runs faster than any kid he encounters (faster than the bullies who are set on beating him up) – and is both a loyal friend to Ghost and a flirty side-kick to Kate. And Kate’s ability to talk to animals provides some top quality humour to the plot (along with Ghost who has learnt English phrases incorrectly from a guide book) – and she adds a fabulous dash of ‘girl power’ to the trio.

There are helicopters, BX-12 Kestrel planes, black orb portals, underground headquarters, ejecting capsules and glass bombs. But perhaps coolest of all are the shinobi shozoku – ninja suits made ‘from millions of tiny mirrored beads. Each bead is weighted and reacts to the earth’s gravitational pull. Regardless of the wearer’s position, the mirrored surface of each bead faces sideways or downwards, but never upwards. Therefore, the suit always reflects the environments around it, never the sky. It will camouflage you anywhere.’ Kids will love imagining which gadgets they’d use and they’ll also enjoy the memorable sayings scattered throughout the story: ‘sometimes the best place to hide is perched on your enemy’s eyelashes.’

Fanning transports the reader back to sixteenth-century Japan seemlessly and Moontrug loved the descriptions of ‘glowing paper lanterns’ that ‘bobbed on the evening breeze’ and skies stained ‘a grapefruit pink’ – an atmospheric setting for warriors and legendary Samurai swords. And the finale in New York is breathlessly exciting – while Cormac’s up on the top of a skyscraper, Kate is advancing on an elephant… The Black Lotus is a fantastic, energetic book – the adventure is huge and the friendships have heart – and Moontrug is excited to see what Fanning has in store for his readers next…