"Samurai Game," Christine Feehan

Pros: Tense, action-filled adventure with plenty of twists and inventive assassinations; interesting new characters introduced into the series
Cons: Too much explaining; cartoonish villains; insufficient romantic chemistry
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

The GhostWalkers seem to have an unknown ally on their side—several informants and pawns working for Whitney, their worst enemy, have died in mysterious “accidents”. A slip and fall; a car crash; a fatal anaphylactic reaction. The only thing these incidents have in common is Sheila, the go-between Whitney sends to pay off his informants, and the fact that each person’s payoff has disappeared from the scene within moments of the death. Sheila fears that one more slip-up and Whitney will blame her.

A new mission is about to be handed down to the GhostWalkers—one that will ultimately sacrifice one of their own, Sam Johnson, so that Whitney can get his hands on a rare component for a weapon he’s building. Only the presence of a traitor among those few who know about them could explain what’s going on.

The GhostWalkers want a spy satellite to help keep them informed and safe. There’s only one company that makes the best of the best in the satellite industry: Samurai Telecommunications. And the three people who run the company—two men, one woman, all adopted by the same man—insist on personally meeting anyone who buys their satellites. This means they’ll be entering the GhostWalkers’ sanctuary at a time when the GhostWalkers fear that Whitney would do anything to kidnap the several children within the compound.


 

The story itself in Christine Feehan’s Samurai Game (a GhostWalker novel) is an absorbing read. There are twists and turns, tense scenes of action, meticulously planned assassinations, surprising new characters, enjoyable sex scenes, and plenty of character friction. For those following the GhostWalker novels there are plenty of glimpses of the other characters involved. For those who haven’t read every predecessor, there’s sufficient back-story and such to keep things from getting confusing.

Although it’s sometimes nice to have translations for and explanations of acronyms, it felt as though Feehan came down too far on the side of failing to assume any intelligence on the part of her readers: things that seemed extremely obvious to me still received exhaustive—and sometimes repetitive—explanation. It felt as though a better balance could have been struck.

I loved the character of Azami, an enhanced psychic in her own right who comes to the GhostWalkers not knowing whether they’ll be allies or enemies. Her past certainly helps to demonize Whitney, the GhostWalkers’ enemy, although he becomes a villain so evil that he seems to belong in a cartoon world, not one based at least in part on the solid world of the military. Along a similar vein, the traitor who is ultimately revealed (don’t worry—no spoilers as to his or her identity) is so viciously unlikable (presumably so we’ll have no qualms about their death) that it’s almost impossible to believe anyone could have failed to miss what kind of person they were. Much less be so totally convinced of their trustworthiness.

As much as I liked Azami, and to a lesser extent Sam, I had some trouble with their instant chemistry. It never totally gelled for me, and their relationship always seemed a little… discordant, somehow.

Also, I couldn’t help noticing that the GhostWalker premise comes across as a less fantastical but ultimately not-so-different version of Lora Leigh’s Breed novels—right down to the fact that some of the GhostWalkers are enhanced with animal DNA, and Whitney found ways to engineer compatible mate pairings.

Despite my complaints, I definitely enjoyed Samurai Games. It was a fascinating adventure with plenty of action and some great new characters (Azami and her brothers). It’s well worth a read, particularly if you’re already enamored of the series.

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