The Cat Ninja and a Cabal of Shadows

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Synopsis

A missing puppy. A secret gang. And a ninja who is on the case.

She’s a cat. She’s a ninja. She’s a cat ninja. Miko likes relaxing at the teahouse, but she also likes wielding akatana. And using her throwing stars. And practicing ninjutsu. When her friend Sukoshi the field mouse comes calling with a new case, Miko agrees to investigate. But the sinister plot goes deeper than a missing dog. Can Miko solve the mystery before it’s too late? – Goodreads

Review

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

This was a cute idea that was poorly executed. I wasn’t expecting a lot going into this simple children’s book, and even then I was disappointed. I had four problems with this book while reading it: the language, the plot, the world building, and the audience.

The Audience: DeLeo has trouble throughout the book deciding on what audience level he is writing for. One minute he is shoehorning in word definitions with the assumption that the reader won’t be able to understand things from context clues and the next dealing with themes of animal cruelty and gangsters and throwing in a joke about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Is this book meant for a six year old or a twelve year old?

The Plot (spoilers): very, very generic and relies on a lot of unbelievably convenient clues being left around/overheard to keep moving. DeLeo spends the entire book telling the reader what they should be thinking/feeling at every moment. The main point of Miko’s entire revenge story-line literally only works if you keep listening to DeLeo tell you that Mr. Kanin is the villain because this is not actually backed up by any evidence stronger than “he’s the dog breed that did it so it must be him. She KNOWS.” How? How does she know for sure?

The Language: A lot of the English sentences are clunky and fractured while the “Japanese” use reads like DeLeo had a short vocabulary list to tick off, which he was going to do no matter what. There are a lot of ungainly sentences like “The cool, damp air heightened the smell of the cherry blossoms called sakura,” or “don’t be baka!” or, my personal favorite, “This is Nihon.” For that last one DeLeo literally just named a character Japan in case the reader forgot that this story takes place in Japan.

The World Building: The above sentence brings me to my final point. The world building is shoddy. First, aside from the occasional toss in about a famous temple or tea house, this book could have been set in any small town.

Second, I honestly could not tell if humans existed in this world or not. This really bothered me because Miko would do things like go into a dog’s house and there would be a regular kitchen table for eating, and dog bowls on the floor, but no humans even mentioned despite the fact that she’s in a home in the middle of the night. Further, there is a big deal made about the fact that Miko absolutely cannot ride the bus, but the why is never explained. Why would a cat riding a bus freak people out more than one walking around town dressed in a ninja suit (no shoes), walking upright, and carrying a sword? A different cat even says later that he has “bills to pay.” Again, are there no people? Animals can pay bills but not ride the bus?

This might seem like an insignificant gripe, but it was numerous small, inconsistent details like this throughout the book that prevented me from being able to get invested in the world, plot, or characters.

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