Fire Lizard by Sandy Fussell

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Samurai Kids, Book 5. Walker Books, 2010. ISBN: 978 1 921529 46 7.
Recommended. As Sensei and the Little Cockroaches travel through Korea to the hidden valley of the Hwarang warriors to visit Sensei's teacher, Pak Cho, the group encounter some confrontations and, early on, meet with a powerful animal which leaves Yoshi with the mark of the Tiger. Hyo Moon, the governor, along with his group of corrupt lackeys, has been controlling and terrorizing the people of the villages of the Nine Valleys. The desperation of the people leads to Sensei and his band travelling to Daejeon City to visit the Governor and alert him to the situation. During the course of the story, the Kids again train in new fighting techniques, meet some characters who dislike them intensely, develop some useful alliances and Niya learns more about his teacher.
Despite having enjoyed the other books in this series, it is this title which has totally engrossed me from the opening page. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, as a reader, I now know the main characters so well that the additional characters can develop throughout the story and I can predict how the Kids will respond to them. Fussell has created a winning formula as she intersperses humour throughout this fusion of the Asian cultures, mythology and mysticism. Niya again narrates, despite the story being that of the group and not just of one character, and his perspective often gives insights into the characters of Sensei and the rest of the Kids. A recommended read!
Jo Schenkel