A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
“Called to Japan with her family and friends, Hattie Jackson discovers her destiny is to resolve the cataclysmic rift in the Hattori family that began centuries before. To do it, she must reunite the three deadly Diamond Daggers, while somehow surviving the dirty tricks and ruthless fighting skills of her most terrifying enemies. But more is at risk than she thinks. The daggers carry a mysterious power of their own – one that can corrupt the very heart of their bearer…”
When we last met Hattie Jackson, she and her family, friends and pet rats were battling ninja warlords up in Northumberland, in that most atmospheric of locations, the Kielder Forest. At the end of Stalking the Enemy we were left hanging everso slightly in mid-air by several unresolved storylines, not least the continued existence of the bad guys and the ambivalent position of Hattie’s long lost twin brother Toby. Curse of the Diamond Daggers picks up where Stalking left off and races along at a terrific pace as what appears to be half of Camden descends on the unsuspecting town of Okinato in Japan to take part in a local festival.
One of the great joys of the Hattori Hachi books is that Hattie, while being The Golden Child with A Scary Destiny to fulfill, is also a perfectly normal teenager with a perfectly normal set of teenage preoccupations – like GCSEs and Boys – all of which she attempts to fit in around ninja battles in the laundry and seeking to reunite the three diamond daggers.
The whole set of characters from the first two books is present and accounted for: Hattie and her parents, Yazuki, Neena, Toby and Mad Dog – to which are added the new characters of Riku and the mysterious Kuyu. Because it was a year or so since I’d read Stalking the Enemy it took me a while to re-establish a firm grasp on who everyone was, but fortunately there are enough gentle ‘last time on Hattori Hachi’-type hints for me not to have to go and unearth Books One and Two for a quick re-read.
That is, of course, the trouble with trilogies – you pretty much have to remember what went before to make complete sense of what you’re reading, but Hattie and her friends and family are such fun to read about and so well-rounded as characters that Curse of the Diamond Daggers would in fact work as a standalone book if it was the first one you came to, although I recommend reading The Revenge of Praying Mantis and Stalking the Enemy first for maximum enjoyment.
In the midst of all the breathless ninja adventures, Jane Prowse introduces some subtle and convincing character development, a surprisingly sombre visit to Nagasaki and even some healthy lifestyle hints, none of which slow the narrative drive or come across as preaching – but they do give the book a deeply moral heart in amongst all the headlong action.
I’m not the target audience for these books, of course. They’re written for a young-to-mid-teen readership, but I still thoroughly enjoyed them – and I’m delighted to say that while Curse of the Diamond Daggers satisfyingly resolves the dangling storylines from Book Two it also offers the tantalizing possibility that we may not have heard the last of Hattie and those pet rats …