We were asked to review, Revenge, which is a Jason Steed novel by Mark A. Cooper because they thought it would appeal to martial artists. There was a catch however, it’s juvenile fiction, so it’s targeted at 9-year-olds and up.
Take down a ruthless criminal gang – from the inside.
Rescue the ambassador’s kidnapped daughter.
Capture a traitor.
If that sounds like it could be the plot of a bad action movie, well then you’ve pretty much nailed Revenge, except this book might actually have more action. By page 69 our 11-year old protagonist has been in 3 fights, involved in 2 murders, a torture scene and one of his school yard chums has committed suicide.
A bit heavy you think? Well, that sort of depends on your 9-year-old I suppose. If he’s the type to play violent video games like Call of Duty, I don’t think he’ll find the disregard for life in this book particularly unusual. By the end of the book, I had lost count of the number of people shot or killed by the guns or martial prowess of Jason Steed.
Considering the heavy subject matter, I was a little surprised at the simplification of other subjects. I can understand simplifying things for the younger audience by making Chinese a single generic language, (yes our little hero speaks Chinese, Japanese, French and is working on German – he also has his pilot’s license), but the representation of the martial arts bothered me at times.
At one point he begins to defend himself against two attackers, and notes that they know karate and wonders what style. He eventually answers his own question… “Tae Kwon Do, good style and fast.”
Hmmm… is this just poorly written prose, or does Mr. Steed, or the author think Tae Kwon Do is a style of karate? There was also movement between Japanese and English on describing kicks, and I think it would have made more sense to keep it consistent. But those were the most egregious errors, ones that could be made by anyone without any martial arts knowledge.
I’ll ignore that our pre-teen wonder has multiple black belts in several different disciplines and is capable of taking on multiple, often armed, adult attackers after 6-years of training. This IS adolescent fiction after all, and some things should be overlooked. It’d be pretty boring if the poor kid was quickly throttled by the Triad members sent to kill him.
When I was 9, I was trying to get my hands on everything I could by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so I’m not sure I would have been into this sort of adolescent wish fulfillment fantasy fiction at that point in my life, but for all of my complaints, the action is quick and almost constant, and likely to connect with today’s kids intent on violent video games and ‘exciting’ subject matter.
So can I recommend this sophomore effort by the author Mark A. Cooper? If you read the first one and liked it, I suspect you’ll enjoy the second one. If the idea of reading about an 11-year-old that racks up a kill count comparable to Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57 doesn’t appeal to you, then you’d best skip it.
Revenge: Jason Steed, a novel by Mark A. Cooper, available from Sourcebooks March 2012.