A review of Moonshadow: Eye of the Beast by Simon Higgins

Reviewed by Dominic Ball

Moonshadow: Eye of the Beast
By Simon Higgins
Random House 
ISBN:9781741662832, paperback, $16.95, August 2008

Moonshadow was an extremely exciting and engaging book once it got to the middle. A disappointing, boring start failed to draw me in. There was too much reminiscing about the past too soon, before we got to know the characters in the present.

The excitement starts to rise, however, as Moonshadow seeks to complete his mission to steal the plans to a weapon that could change battles forever:

His gaze moved to the sword rack. Once his swordsmith turned those plans into a reality, no amount of armour would save the Shogun or his men. After all, slow loading, single-shot firearms were everywhere these days. But no one had even heard of a gun that could fire multiple lead balls, one after the other, and with improved accuracy.

The finale, which I won’t mention as it’s a spoiler, leaves the reader empty, and is a second strike against the otherwise brilliant storyline. Despite these downsides, I feel that Moonshadow is quite a good book, that creates a good deal of suspense throughout the middle chapters. There is always some sort of action happening, whether it be ferocious swordfights or sneaky Shinobi rivals trying to outdo Moon. And each chapter ends with a small cliffhanger that is just waiting to be resolved:

’This, Nanashi is not a sleep you can shake off,’ she ordered her victim. ‘You will now sleep all day, all night. If they don’t find you first, you should wake feeling quite rested.’

The language used in Moonshadow describes ancient Japan brilliantly, with all its floral roses, exotic arts and brutal military strength. The plot is well developed, especially the relationship between Moonshadow and Snowhawk. Plus, it keeps you in the dark about a lot of good twists, eg, who is the kimono cat and why does it follow Moon around? When will the Deathless strike? It’s always good to leave a few threads untied until the end of a book, and that is just what Higgins does. Plus there is a small hint that the key character will actually return. All in all, I eagerly await the next book in the series.

Can Moonshadow, youngest agent of the Grey Light Order, steal the plans for a weapon an evil warlord will be able to conquer the whole of Japan with, all the while evading a legendary assassin, a rival spy and vicious Samurai rogues?

If you like spy tales and stories of Medieval Japan, then I recommend that you read Moonshadow to find out.

About the reviewer: Dominic Ball is an eleven year old compulsive reader who likes nothing better than to sit still for hours and hours with a good book. He is occasionally forced by his parents to get up for meals, and also swims, writes, plays soccer, cricket, piano, mandolin and chess, and has been known to contemplate the ‘multiverse’, but would always rather be reading.