Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: The Kensei

Meet Lawson. A cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance between vampires and humans, he is part cop, part spy, and part commando — James Bond with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done. He tries his best to dismantle conspiracies, dispatch bad guys, and live long enough to get home. In The Kensei, a battle-weary Lawson heads to Japan for a little rest and some advanced ninja training. But he no sooner steps off the plane than lands in the midst of a Yakuza turf war orchestrated by a shadowy figure known as the Kensei. With the help of Talya, a former KGB-assassin, Lawson must put a stop to the Kensei’s organ trafficking networks, prevent the creation of an army of vampire-human hybrids, and save his own skin in the process.

--From Goodreads

Cover Inspection:
Absolute and total love! I'm feeling the skyline and the man on the front looks like I envisioned Lawson would.

First Thoughts:
I am so loving Lawson's sense of humor! He and I are going to get along just fine.


My Review:
I hang my head as I tell you this my friends, but my childhood love of James Bond has been thwarted. Yes, from the moment that Lawson stepped into my life I was smitten and there was no turning back. New favorite action hero, thy name is Lawson!

When I first opened the pages of The Kensei I really wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard rave reviews about Lawson's escapades, but would I really fall in love with the martial arts action that was said to lie within the pages? As a girl who grew up surrounded by action/espionage novels, I've had my fair share of disappointments with this genre. Honestly, I don't know why I worried. By page 20 I was completely in love with Lawson and his story! He is one of those characters who oozes charisma (generally by being a total smart-ass) while at the same time having that depth and vulnerability to him that makes him real. The part of this book that really hit home for me is that it isn't bogged down by the concept of vampires. Sure Lawson has to heed his baser instincts, but it isn't the focus of the storyline. Instead the reader is treated to a roller coaster ride of a plot, complete with twists, turns and one very chilling villain.

Japan is  the perfect backdrop for this story, and Merz weaves it into the action seamlessly without ever letting it be overpowering. I was taken on a journey through parts of the world that I've never seen, and yet now I feel like I've been there. Don't mistake me though. The writing in this book is not at all flowery in its descriptions. No, instead Merz seems to create an omnipresent Japan that flows with you as you read. People and cities seamlessly waver in and out of focus without ever really taking away from the action. I honestly can't seem to figure out how so much detail was present without it seeming to overshadow the rest of the story, but it's there. Also woven into the story is ample history about martial arts and the different branches therein. I found it completely fascinating and a wonderful way to further immerse the reader in the story.

Afraid that this book will simply be too much testosterone fueled action for you? I know that sometimes we waver on reading books like this simply because we tire of the mano a mano action scene. Enter Talya. She is Lawson's lady love, but Talya is definitely no shrinking violet. More than capable of handling her own, I loved Talya with everyone ounce of my female heart. She is strong willed, completely matches Lawson's own wit, and yet once again there is a sweetness and a vulnerability to her that really brings her character home. It's always nice to see a female character who can hold her own next to our male action hero! The amount of times she pulls Lawson's butt out of the fire are numerous, but she takes it all in stride. After all, someone has to save the man she loves. Right?

I could write pages about how much this story impressed me, but I'll wrap it up here. Intense action, martial arts scenes, veins of sweet romance, and chilling villains are just a small part of what you will find in Jon F. Merz's The Kensei. I really can't recommend this book enough, especially to those of you out there who are wanting to break into more action fueled books, but are worried you won't mesh. Never fear, Lawson is here to take you away (and personally I'd let him).

Book Details
Title: The Kensei
Author: Jon F. Merz
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: Paperback; 304
Source: Received from author for review.
FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Final Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart


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