FeaturedMiddle Grade Fantasy

The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows

By

Loved it! 😍

Ninjas? Swords? Stealth in the night? These are the thrills that draw kids to read, and The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows has them all!

Synopsis

A missing puppy. An evil gang. And a hidden adversary lurking in the shadows.

She’s a cat. She’s a ninja. She’s a cat ninja. When Miko’s friend Sukoshi the field mouse comes calling with a new job, she agrees to investigate. But when it turns out the job entails helping the family an old enemy, little does Miko know that she’ll need to face her past in order to solve the case before it’s too late.

If you like talking animals, stealthy ninjas, and beating up bad guys, then you’ll love The Cat Ninja. This chapter book deals with many themes including anger, loss, abandonment, and fear. It is perfect for fans of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Redwall by Brian Jacques and The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, along with other fantasy series including The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows is a fun-filled, mysterious adventure for young readers. Its classic plot of childhood trauma turned revenge mission is exciting, yet it delivers so much more than just furry entertainment. The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows has lessons to share with those who will listen.


In his delightful writing style, Erik DeLeo immediately plunges the reader into the darkness of a covert mission that is being executed by none other than Miko – the cat ninja. When the mission fails, a delicious cat-and-mouse banter arises between Miko and her agent, Sukoshi. I love the quip and humour carried out between ornery Miko and peppy Sukoshi, and the chemistry between them continues to entertain to the end.


But there’s more. The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows engages the reader with suspense, deep emotion, and believable conflict. I especially enjoyed the contrasting themes of friendship and betrayal. It is a beautiful story about family, loss, love, anger, faithfulness, respect, and dealing with the past.


From the perspective of a reviewer who holds a Christian worldview, I believe that the good in this book far outweighs the questionable. I would recommend The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows for ages 8 and up, with the understanding that their parents are aware of the following content:


  1. The main character wears an omamori (a Japanese amulet or good luck charm), visits a temple, and makes passing references to praying to her ancestors and mother.

  2. There are references to foul language, but nothing is explicitly stated. (eg. “Startled, Miko jumped straight into the air, spouting a slew of foul language.”)

  3. There is fighting, but nothing graphic.

In the wise words of Kobayashi, Miko’s sensei: “I am not perfect. You are not perfect. The planet is perfect in its imperfection.”


*** Thank you to https://reedsy.com/discovery for this free ebook in exchange for my honest review.***

Reviewed by

I love books that make me think and touch my heart: I hate books that waste my time. When a book keeps me engaged, I believe it deserves a review.

I’m also always on the lookout for healthy books for my kids to enjoy. I appreciate other parents who post reviews, and I'd like to return the favor.

Synopsis

A missing puppy. An evil gang. And a hidden adversary lurking in the shadows.

She’s a cat. She’s a ninja. She’s a cat ninja. When Miko’s friend Sukoshi the field mouse comes calling with a new job, she agrees to investigate. But when it turns out the job entails helping the family an old enemy, little does Miko know that she’ll need to face her past in order to solve the case before it’s too late.

If you like talking animals, stealthy ninjas, and beating up bad guys, then you’ll love The Cat Ninja. This chapter book deals with many themes including anger, loss, abandonment, and fear. It is perfect for fans of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Redwall by Brian Jacques and The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, along with other fantasy series including The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

JOB

She clung to the wall like a shadow. Miko was a ninja, through-and through, a living weapon with black fur and golden eyes.

After scaling the outer perimeter, she had dropped herself to the interior grounds without a sound. Her ninja outfit hung comfortably on her frame, loose enough to allow freedom of movement and tight enough not to be bulky. A collar hung from Miko’s neck with a single, golden charm in the center—a memory to her mother.

Her breathing was shallow. Purposeful. After all, this was a mission. Miko pulled a dart from inside her tunic and held it between the pads of her front paw. The feel of metal was reassuring. Years of training were contained in her grip. She aimed and released the dart with a flick of her wrist.

It flew through the air. Silent. Accurate. Her victim slumped forward before they knew she was there, the sleeping agent taking hold immediately. Miko pulled herself away from the wall and advanced slowly, reaching over her shoulder to draw her sword from the scabbard lashed across her back. She stood over the now-motionless guard and poked the body with her toe. The dog didn’t move.

Amai Fukushu as the name of her sword; it meant “sweet revenge.” Most thought it was a katana but technically it was a kobachi—a shorter sword more suited to a cat. A ninja cat. It was forged to great sharpness, made by a grandmaster using the seven layers technique. What did that mean? That there was no blade in Kyoto as deadly.

Her eyes scanned the area. The residence was lightly-guarded. Security was lax. It was a perfect scenario for Miko—a simple mission with a clear goal. She wasn’t much for complexity: get in, steal the item, leave, get paid. And that was good, because she and her partner were in a particularly tough situation. They needed money, and fast, for different reasons.

She advanced, one paw in front of the other, sword held out, arms straight and ready for action. Miko dispatched two more guards who didn’t see her until it was too late. Once through a moon gate in the secondary wall, she approached a corner and crouched. The path bordered a well-tended garden of bonsai trees and carefully-raked stones. It ended in a “T” with one part disappearing into the darkness to her left and the other, dimly lit by lamplight, heading toward the house. Miko checked behind her, being cautious, but there was no one there. Her only company was the trilling sound of the tree crickets.

The starless night sky helped cover her advance toward the mission’s target, a rare feudal Japanese coin called a koban, a gold coin. Miko thought of the phrase “neko ni koban,” which roughly translated to “gold coins for cats.” It meant not to waste things on people who wouldn’t appreciate them. Ironic to be sure, since she didn’t care about the koban for its own sake. Miko valued the coin because the price to be paid for it meant her partner Sukoshi could eat, and Miko could settle the debt she took out to pay for her sword.

It didn’t take long before Miko was standing just outside the front doors of the estate. Thin beams of light pierced out into the darkness, escaping from gaps in shuttered windows. Someone was home, of that she could be sure.

She slinked up to the door and tried the latch. It was unlocked. Odd. It should be locked. Miko pushed lightly on the door, which opened quietly on well-oiled hinges. She stepped back from the light cascading out, keeping to the shadows. Confident no one was near, Miko slipped inside.

If she understood the layout of the residence correctly, the coin should be upstairs, locked in a display case in the den. Luckily, the owner liked to show off his prized item, and it was no secret where the coin lay. The inside of the home was luxurious, with thick oriental rugs covering dark wood floors and grass cloth on the walls. 

Miko climbed the imposing stairwell, Amai Fukushu in front, ready for action. The carpet was plush beneath her paws. With each step, she grew closer to her goal. The den would be to her right at the top of the stairs. As she crested the last step, Miko noticed the den’s shoji—a wooden-framed door covered with rice paper—was ajar. The fur prickled on the back of her neck. Something was off.

Still holding her blade, Miko pushed the door open with the back of her right elbow. It slid back smoothly on its rollers. Inside, the room was richly appointed. A large desk took up most of the room, with a hand-carved chair tucked in behind it. Antique books lined the walls. A daisho isplay hung behind the desk—a curved Japanese tachi sword with a shorter wakizashi blade underneath. Her target, the koban, lay just beyond the desk in a display case.

Miko approached. Despite her training, her heart beat just a bit faster with each step. Securing the gold coin for their client would be a great relief. But as she grew closer, she sensed something was wrong. A feeling of dread began to fill her body. The shackle of the lock was hanging from its clasp. 

Inside the case, the koban was gone. Failure. And with it, any hope for payment. It didn’t matter who had taken it. No coin meant no money.

About the author

Erik DeLeo was born in Rochester, NY. He grew up reading fantasy and science fiction and avoiding the sun. He now lives in Santa Monica, California with his three cats, Marco, Barnabas, and Caia. He doesn't charge them rent even though they eat a lot. view profile

Published on February 28, 2020

30000 words

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Reviewed by

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