Ryo, a young adolescent in a bygone Japan, embarks on a mindful journey of self-discovery.
Ryo is listless in his pottery apprenticeship under his father, a renowned artist. He is intrigued when he witnesses Akio, a monk, skillfully defeat a band of “brigands” threatening his village. Inspired, he follows the monk’s advice to seek the hermit Unzen in the mountains to initiate his martial arts training. After mentoring him, Unzen introduces him to the Hidden Ones, a vigilante group that trains in all forms of self-defense and mindfulness practices at their camp in the mountains. There, Ryo is teamed with three other students to sharpen his skills for their first mission. When disaster strikes, Ryo finds his training put to the real test to overcome not only physical, but mental obstacles in order to survive. Mindfulness is the book’s major theme, with poetic interludes of mindfulness practice interspersed throughout the text. Unfortunately, there are cultural blunders. References to flying winged dragons ignore traditional Japanese depictions of wingless water-based creatures. Japanese greetings and commands are misused in social interactions. Both the introduction of the concept of yin and yang and portrayals of varying martial arts styles evoke images from other Asian countries. Regrettably, these missteps uproot the story.
Instructional in meditative practices; unmindful of its cultural context. (Fantasy. 9-12)