Review by Ardy Hart
Ninja Wolf Saizo blends fantasy with historical fiction. Set in a time where the primary weapons of settling conflicts were swords and bows and arrows, the world Saber Grey [editor's note: the cover spells the last name "Gray," but the Rabbit Valley site spells it "Grey"] has crafted makes use of ninja abilities to give the Amada family an advantage in the battle of survival. With these abilities comes power, and with power comes people who want to abuse it. Will this wolf family have what it takes to save each other and their country?
The Amada family falls under duress when Emperor Kotai asks Kyba Yagato, the uncle of two ninja apprentices, to meet with him about an issue concerning Kotai’s brother, Lord Tetsuya. Kyba returns home shortly after to relay the news to Saizo and Haruki, his nephews. Mizuno, their mother and Kyba’s sister, begs him to stay, but putting the emperor before family is a ninja’s way of life. Kyba leaves, asking his nephews to watch over their mother until he gets back. On his journey he discovers an ugly truth about Lord Tetsuya. Meanwhile, Saizo and Haruki try to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious Aware beads, and deal with the consequences of losing one. With the family split, everyone is vulnerable. The clock is ticking as danger surrounds them and their loved ones.
I’m struggling to find any amount of praise for this book. The cons vastly outweigh the pros in this case. First of all, the editing was horrendous. Quotation marks were used wrong just about every single time there was dialogue, and there was A LOT of dialogue. In fact, about ninety percent of the story was dialogue. None of the paragraphs in chapter ten had indents, which was very inconsistent with the rest of the book. There were countless typos in the dedication page, in the about-the-author section, and throughout the entire story. Sometimes there were bigger line breaks to signify a change in setting; sometimes there weren’t. Editing shouldn’t make or break a story, but this was ridiculous. I thought that on the dedication page it said that Rabbit Valley helped edit it—which would make sense because the “About” section on their website for this book is just as poorly edited—but apparently Goal Publications helped edit it. I’m extremely disappointed by the lack of work that went into editing this. I don’t know what it looked like before, but this is unacceptable.
I gave you a lot of bad so now I’ll give you some good. The story itself—that is, the premise, the characters, the setting—is okay. I felt like, with a few more drafts, this story would have been pretty enticing to read. It’s easy to tell from the writing what the author wanted the story to be. Though flawed, the characters are interesting to read about, and the story is filled with non-stop action, which I mostly enjoyed.
With all that, I still wouldn’t recommend the story to anyone because it’s simply not finished. There’s a big conflict that every character is trying to solve in their own way. I read through page after page trying to figure out what was going to happen to resolve said conflict...but nothing ever came. It felt like the story ended on a cliff-hanger right before the climax. There was non-stop action, yes, but a lot of it didn’t even matter. One of the characters is attacked. Then she gets treated, starts recovering, but then we never hear from her again. If she was a side character, I’d get it. But she seemed like someone Saizo cared very much about.
Speaking of Saizo, I don’t understand why he’s the main character and why his name is the title of the book. Most of the conflict revolves around Kyba and his past familial matters. Saizo had many traits that designated him as a main character, but conflict wasn’t one of them. He only ran into minor matters, which did change him and made him think, but he never solved the overarching problem. The story ended before he could.
My final thoughts about the book are about how it was organized. Every event that happened was logical, and nothing felt out of place. However, in a sense, things felt out of time. The story was paced so quickly that there wasn’t a lot of breathing room, and events that should cause the reader to stop and think were bombarded by new conflicts or sudden action scenes. It felt like a car constantly speeding up and slowing down, never giving you time to adjust to either speed. It needs to be properly edited, it needs to be organized better, and it needs to be finished. Or at least, feel finished. And that includes a climax and falling action.
This book has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of people, from kids to teens to young adults. But it’s got a lot of work that needs to be done before I’d recommend it to anyone.