Select one of the keywords
Samurai    by Jason Hightman order for
by Jason Hightman
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

They masquerade as regular men and women, and only the descendants of Saint George - the Order of Dragonhunters - can see the Serpents in their true form. 'They prey on human weakness. Feed on human misery. Revel in human pain. Dragons.' Knight Simon St. George considers them 'a species that drives people to do evil, because it feeds off misery, soaks it right into the skin. It tortures people. If the Serpent doesn't actually do these things itself, it forces people to do it for him'.

Dragonmaster Aldric St. George and his son Simon resume their adventures in Jason Hightman's Samurai, a stand-alone sequel to Saint of Dragons. Before the central story begins, Knights Aldric and Simon, with Magician Alaythia, are summoned to Africa, where a pestilence has killed thousands of people. With a gathering of thousands of vultures and jackals on the rim of the village boundaries, it is obvious to the knights and magician that African Dragons (Matiki and his twin Savagi) are at work and must be destroyed in order to save the remaining inhabitants.

Upon return to New England, Aldric, Simon, and Alaythia's residence (a historical baronial manor) is discovered, and partially destroyed by a Dragon flyer - the Ashlover Serpent. But, how did the Dragons discover where the St. George's lived? Magician Alaythia sets out on a dangerous journey to search out the truth (through the use of the last memories of a dying dragon). Aldric and Simon set sail toward the East, on their Ship With No Name to find their beloved Alaythia. En route, they encounter the elderly, devious Ice Dragon Brrrrr! (a.k.a. Professor Herr Viser) of Switzerland, a connoisseur of Serpent history in poetry form. (The latter's skin is white down the length of one side of his body, yet black down the other.)

In the Ice Dragon's records, father and son discover the existence of a Japanese boy named Kyoshi, who is a St. George descendant, while his mother Sachiko is a Magician. Aldric and Simon are transported to Kyoto and to the land of the Samurai (descendants of the ancient group of warriors pledged to protect their country). They join forces to foil a dragon plot, and to stop the mating of two, powerful bloodlines which would produce Serpent scions, guaranteeing their world-rule and destruction. It is hoped that the wise Chinese Black Dragon (a.k.a. Ming Song) will be found, as he once helped the knights with his magic. The aging dragon is also sought by his own kind as a traitor to be eliminated for helping humans in a past dire battle with the Queen of Serpents.

In Tokyo, the Japanese Dragon heads a massive medical corporation called Murdikai. Also known as Dr. Najikko (which in Dragontongue means Master of the Healing Power of Death), the Dragon of Japan loves order - 'Equilibrium was the watchword of his life. To never grow too pleased, nor too unhappy, to always keep all feelings in perfect balance - that was the highest state of being.' Najikko Mok Voko is a plastic surgeon, and enjoys a special tea made from the blood of the Japanese people. In Bombay, India, the Tiger Dragon (a.k.a. Issindra, svelte in both human and serpent form), awaits the arrival of the Japanese Dragon, to mate, then kill him and raise offspring 'to rule the world'. Issindra was once a model, and now oversees a fashion manufacturing company. Employees are held in a hypnotic state, working long arduous hours, while she looks on amongst her collection of roaming, deadly (to workers especially) tigers.

Jason Hightman studied dragon hunting and alchemy at the University of Southern California, and 'spent the last few years doing battle with the serpents in Los Angeles, who use automobiles to clog motorways impenetrably'. Hightman is 'often found in his armor, prowling for good books and hunting any nasty dragons disguised as cynical critics. He prays he never runs into the latter.' The author injects humor in his stories, as when he tells of the Ice Dragon's love for the TV-detective series Columbo, and the Bombay Dragon's torching an American model in Manhattan 'in a New York minute'. Of Simon, he says 'English people hate food ... Having a British father had a definite downside. Simon combed through boxes of plain crackers, unsalted potato chips, jars of mincemeat and potted meat, bottled gravy, oatmeal ... canned kippers, onions in a weird fluid, and something called digestives in an ugly plain brown box.'

Amid the story's intensity and numerous strongly-designed characters, Hightman superbly paces the reader's attention. He interweaves wisps of background from Saint of Dragons, accommodating those who might not have read the first book. Though the reader is occasionally allowed a breather, accelerated page-turning recommences as suspenseful action grabs hold time and again. The ending of Samurai promises another book from an extraordinarily-talented fantasy writer. I anxiously anticipate the next installment of St. George descendants against the power of the Dragon world, and highly recommend Samurai to fantasy readers, young and old.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews