Fanning, Kieran. The Black Lotus
September 27th 2016 by Scholastic
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Ghost comes from the slums of Brazil, Cormac an orphanage in Ireland, and Kate is living on the streets in the Bronx. All have unusual powers, which leads them to be recruited by Makoto. He is a representative of the Black Lotus society, who have stolen the Moon Sword from Lord Goda. Goda has two other swords, but getting the third would give him even more power in a dystopian society ruled by the Japanese. The Black Lotus has an organization devoted to keeping the sword safe, and the latest threat is the overpowering of the US. The three children go to a school to join their number and train to become ninjas, which is a good thing. One of the teachers steals the sword, and the children must race across time and space to get the sword back. They must struggle with demons from their pasts, learn to get along, and, above all, be loyal to the Black Lotus organization in order to bring down Lord Goda and his Samurai Empire.
This had an interesting premise-- the world has been taken over by Goda, who has continued to use the feudal overlord system and impose it on as much of the world as he can. This gives Brazil, Ireland, and the US and very different feel when they are described. I can't think of another ninja Dystopian time travel tale!
Of course, only the tweens can keep the world safe, but I did enjoy their background stories and their unusual powers. Ghost has that name because he can become invisible, Kate can talk to animals, and Cormac has super speed. Since they are all orphaned (Kate's family has been taken hostage), they bond in interesting ways. Ghost has a lot of problems, and is traumatized by the death of his brother. This explains why one of the villains is able to control his mind-- she talks to him in his brother's voice!
While readers with an interest in Japanese culture who have read Stone's Five Ancestors series or Hoobler's The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn will enjoy The Black Lotus, it should also be popular with fans of Black's Urban Outlaw series, Bradley's Double Vision, Korman's Masterminds and other fantasy adventure series where the only things standing between the world and utter destruction is a group of plucky twelve year olds.
My own reservations about this center solidly on the concerns raised by the #WNDB movement about cultural appropriation. Five years ago, no one would have cared, but today, someone is bound to mention the fact that an Irish author is writing about a Brazilian boy and an entire Japanese influenced culture. I've not seen anything, but I'm waiting.