I should note that I haven’t read the first book in this series – The Ninja’s Daughter – and in retrospect, maybe that was a mistake. The gist of the series is that Lily Wong is a kunoichi, a female ninja, who dedicates her skills to help women in danger. The reason behind this feminist altruism is due to her sister Rose being sexually assaulted and murdered by a man in her car. Compounding her guilt is the fact that Lily had missed the phone call from Rose as she was being attacked, thus possibly missing out on the one chance to save her sister.
The first book apparently dealt with media hype and a complicated land deal, whereas The Ninja’s Blade is about underage sex trafficking. Heavy stuff, I know. However, Eldridge’s writing style allows us to tag along with Lily Wong as she dives deeper and deeper into the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Added to that, her descriptions of the action sequences are like reading a movie and have a cinematic quality to them. For example, a quote from the book:
“As I turned, a fist slammed into my face.
I relaxed my body and went with the motion of the hit, absorbing the impact and lessening the pain. A patio table stopped my momentum. I grabbed the edge and rocked back onto its surface, tucking my legs for a powerful double stomp to my assailant’s chest – the shorter one with the busted nose. He stumbled back into his friend, who was still clutching his injured stiles. I rolled off to the side and landed in a Kosei no Kamae floating-hand fighting stance.”
Added to Lily Wong’s troubles are villains from the first book, still mad at her, and her controlling grandparents arriving from Hong Kong, who, along with her mother, pressure her on getting married. Those grandchildren aren’t going to make themselves, after all. There is a romantic subplot with Daniel Kwok, the “Mister perfect Chinese Son” who the Wong family keeps pushing on her. It’s a nice distraction from the main plot.
Lily Wong is searching for a missing schoolgirl, taking her through the Los Angeles public schools and the aforementioned seedy underbelly of the City of Angels. There are a lot of Los Angeles locations highlighting throughout the book, from the very real Paco’s Tacos (located off Centinela Avenue) to a part of Long Beach Boulevard known as “the Blade,” well-known for its human trafficking and sex work.
It should be noted that the author, Tori Eldridge, is half Norwegian, half Chinese, and a master of ninjitsu. There is the very troubling notion that Lily Wong is a mere author insert character, but the book’s wry humor, well-written action, and fast-paced plot were enough for me to ignore that.