“Kill Bill meets Buffy in this supernatural samurai tale.” If the publisher’s blurb grabs your attention like it did mine, then you’ll love “Katana,” by Cole Gibsen (Flux, 2012).
Rileigh Martin is a skater chick who just wants to go to her junior class’s end-of-the-school-year party, maybe hook up with this cute guy she’s had her eye on for the past year. But when Rileigh and her best friend Quentin witness a mugging in a shopping mall parking lot, something—someone—is awakened inside her. Rileigh foils the thief and defends herself against the thug and his two buddies with impressive martial arts skills she never knew she possessed.
Rileigh would like to believe that her fighting skills were powered by pure adrenaline, but that doesn’t explain her the voice inside her head giving her battle tips and warning her of danger, or her incredible fighting skills. And if definitely doesn’t explain her strange, vivid dreams of fifteenth-century Japan. She thinks she might be going crazy—not the way she was planning on spending her summer.
As it turns out, she’s not crazy—just the reincarnation of a female samurai warrior named Sensi who died 500 years ago. Or at least that’s what a handsome martial arts instructor named Kim tells her. And now that others know of her powers (her fight was caught on a security camera), she is very much in danger. An enemy from her past would like to see her dead.
Rileigh wants none of this. She simply wants to be a normal teenage girl who—finally!—seems to have caught the eye of the guy she has a crush on. And, truth be told, it takes her longer than I’d like to embrace her samurai self. But when she finally does, Rileigh becomes the great, kick butt-character you want her to be.
Rileigh learns to master the katana, a deadly Japanese sword that’s also the key to her past. As the spirit of Sensi grows stronger, she also finds herself falling for Kim.
“Katana” isn’t perfect. Although Quentin is a terrific character, the stereotype of the gay best friend is getting kind of old. The dialogue is sometimes kind of awkward. Even so, “Katana” is a lot of fun. It’s jam-packed with action, and the fight scenes are incredibly well written. Romance? Check. We’re talking soul-mate love. Add to that a good dash of humor, and you’ve got a great summer read.
Gibsen is a talented young author from southern Illinois. A second book in the series, “Senshi,” is due out in 2013.
This review was originally published in the News-Gazette on July 8, 2012. To learn more about Cole Gibsen, check her out: http://www.colegibsen.com/