Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Katana Shodan: The Scroll of the Five Masters (Katana #1) by Ken Warner

Katana Shodan: The Scroll of the Five Masters (Katana #1)

31429241An evil lord has risen: Can Katana uncover his identity before he becomes immortal? 

Something strange happens when Katana tests for her Black Belt: she stops several attackers using only her chi. Master Osaka sends her away to the Hall of the Dragon to learn to use and control her power. Soon after her arrival, a mysterious band of warriors tries to steal the Scroll of the Five Masters, which contains the key to immortality. Katana learns that they are the Arashi, a secret society that preserves the dark art of dim mak. 

It was believed that knowledge of the art’s highest power, the death touch, was taken to the grave by its ancient master. But now a new dim mak master has risen, commanding a power even more terrifying than the death touch—and he will stop at nothing to obtain the Scroll of the Five Masters. In the end, it’s up to Katana to confront this new enemy and uncover the shocking truth of his identity.

My Take:

Katana Kahanu lost her parents not long after she was born in a fiery car crash in Hawaii. So she grew up in Vermont with her aunt. Tutored for many years in kempo karate at a dojo by Master Osaka, she unintentionally uses her chi to deflect her attackers during her trials for her black belt.

Master Osaka sends her away to the Hall of the Dragon to learn to use and control her newfound powers. The Hall teaches five different disciplines - kempo, tae kwon do, wushu (kung fu), aikido, and tai chi. The secrets of these disciplines in contained in a hidden scroll, the Scroll of the Five Masters.

Not long after she arrives, a mysterious group of Arashi warriors appear in the courtyard, trying to break into the hall to steal the Scroll of the Five Masters. The scroll, it appears, contains the secret of immortality, for anyone who can master all five disciplines. The Arashi are a secret society that preserve the dark art of dim mak.

Dim Mak's highest talent, the Death Touch, was lost when the Arashi leader Jaaku was killed a century ago. But now a new dim mak master has arisen, with a power greater than even the Death Touch, and he will stop at nothing to get the scroll and achieve immortality.


Drug Content:
PG-13 - several students use pot. It is cast in a very negative light, and there are consequences.

PG - Most of the violence that occurs in this book is during matches, and while it might cause bruises or broken bones, it's usually light. However, one character dies when his neck is snapped, several are turned to dust by the Death Touch.

G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - Other than a slight bit of early teen angst, and references to two characters liking each other, there's no kissing, or anything beyond.   

Christian content:
None. While there's a lot of discussion about chi and the abilities it provides, the requirement of it for life and it's flow through the body, it's never really tied to it's Eastern Mysticism faith, that I recall. As a martial arts centered novel, that's not unexpected. The importance of friendship, honesty, loyalty, and trust play a large part in this book, as well as self-sacrifice. 

Final analysis:
This was an exciting ride. The martial arts were well-described and the chi abilities thought out and almost plausible. I could seriously see myself at some of those martial arts competitions, and the action sequences described in the battles with the Aroshi had me there in the thick of it. The settings were reasonably immersive, and the main characters had good dimension and were easy to identify with. The antagonists were pretty well fleshed out too, the action was excellent, and the pacing was steady. The stakes were high, the plot well constructed, and a good set of moral lessons packed in for good measure. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Ken WarnerKen Warner grew up reading science fiction and fantasy. His favorites at an early age were The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. When he began his martial arts training in high school, he heard many myths and legends about masters who possessed mysterious powers, typically attributed to their internal chi energy. He often thought these legends would make a great story.

Ken dabbled in creative writing while still attending Notre Dame High School in West Haven, CT, completing several short stories. He attempted his first novel while a student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, but never completed it. He always wished someone would write an epic fantasy series drawing from the vast mythology of the martial arts world. Nobody ever did, so he finally began planning such a series himself in 2005. The story revolves around Katana Kahanu, and the special relationship she shares with her teacher, Master Osaka.

Ken wrote the first book, Katana Shodan: The Scroll of the Five Masters in November of 2006. In December of the same year, he wrote the second novel, Katana Nidan: The Unwritten Koan. He completed the first draft in only ten days. Since then, he has finished the entire Katana series, as well as several other novels and short stories.

Ken graduated from Wesleyan University in 1993 with a BA in English and astronomy. He holds a 5th Degree Black Belt in the art of Kempo Karate. He has also trained extensively in traditional Chinese Kung Fu. From 2006 until 2012, he was the assistant coach for 100 Percent Performance, a sport karate team that became one of the most successful in history. The team won the ISKA World Championship for Team Demo in 2009, 2010 and 2011. These performances were televised on ESPN2.

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