…the other samurai was also coming for Ari now. He had drawn his long sword and was cutting down at her. Ari dodged his sword easily. Takeda had been much more devious with his cuts and this samurai was attacking a small girl. He underestimated her. Ari ran straight into him, driving her shoulder into his solar plexus.
An action packed tale set in old Japan.
Ari, the kitchen girl, is sent on a secret mission with a princess and a grumpy old martial arts master. But what is the secret behind the princess’s identity, and what is the secret of Ari’s own background?
And what is it that lurks in the trees on Mt. Kurama?
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Age range –
the book is targeted towards 12 to 16 year olds, but hopefully even adults will find it an engaging story, full of unexpected plot twists. There is some violence, as is unavoidable in a story set in a sword fighting culture, but nothing too gruesome.
Why this book was written
Partly this book was written because of the lack of exciting fiction for children that features strong female characters. Usually the girls in stories are secondary characters who don’t do the exciting stuff, and are more passive than the boys. I have two daughters, so this book was intended to address that. I wanted to write a tale that had girls who took an active role in solving the conflict, girls that would not take ‘no’ for an answer.
It was Christmas, and we were on holiday with the extended family. Now, one thing about my extended family is that they tend to go to bed early, and I’m a night owl. So I was sitting up at night, and thinking about how a story would fit together, and I started writing.
Obviously the main character would be a girl. I know a great deal about classical Japanese martial arts, so it was natural to set the story in old Japan. I took my favourite characters from Japanese History and folklore and threw them all into the pot.
In 1189 the giant monk Benkei died protecting his lord Minamoto Yoshitune and Yoshitune’s family. What if Benkei did not die, and escaped, saving the life of Yoshitune’s infant daughter? Lets also throw in Takeda Sokaku, the diminutive martial arts master who lived until 1943 – a man feared for his incredible skill, but who was less than 1.5 metres (4’11”) tall. And Oda Nobunaga, the warlord who almost unified Japan in the late 16th century, famous for his ruthlessness. So, despite the way I’ve squashed people from different periods into the same time frame, there’s also a lot of historical fact in this book.
By the time Christmas morning came around I had a printout of the first chapter wrapped up under the tree, with my daughter’s names on it.
My main background as a writer is as a screenwriter, and a teacher of screenwriting, so it was a fantastic experience to be able to write what characters were thinking. Also it was great that once I had written a scene – that was it! I didn’t need to even think about finding actors, locations, and money to shoot it. One consequence of my screenwriting background though is that the story has come out as very action packed. The goal of screenwriting is to invent situations where the action tells the story, since you can’t include people’s internal monologues. All in all I don’t think this is a bad thing – I like a tale that moves along quickly.