Review: Katana (Cole Gibsen)

AUTHOR: Cole Gibsen
SERIES: none
ISBN: 9780738730400
PAGES: 384
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: action/adventure
GIVE IT TO: I would not recommend this to anyone

SUMMARY: Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline gave her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn’t explain her dreams of fifteenth century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger warnings. While worrying that she’s going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she’s harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior. (summary from Goodreads)

READALIKES: Mortal Instruments series (Clare); Minion (Banks); Katana (Gibson)


  • Overall: 1/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 1/5
  • Engrossing: 2/5
  • Writing: 2/5
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5


  • Language: mild
  • Sexuality: medium; some passionate kisses
  • Violence: medium-high; lots of fighting (martial arts/samurai in past)
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It’s not out yet, but I don’t see myself buying it for the library. While the content is fine for middle school, I would not be able to recommend it to my students since I did not like it.

WARNING: The reviews on this site are intended for librarians who need thorough book reviews in order to make informed purchasing decisions. As such, anything below this warning may contain mild spoilers. I try not to give away too much, but I do review the entire book.

WHAT I LIKED: Sigh. Katana really had so much going for it. Samurai warriors. Reincarnation. Kicking butt with a side of romance and eternal love. Sounds like my kind of paradise. I give Gibsen major props for an original premise; I love the idea of past lives melding together and making us who we are today. Ever since I saw the movie Dead Again with my baby-doll Kenneth Branagh back in the 90s, I’ve been in love with the idea that we are constantly reincarnated. I love the idea that we encounter the same souls in every lifetime, that our souls have the same friends, enemies, and lovers every time, no matter where fate decides to take us. Even though I didn’t always understand them, I enjoyed reading about Rileigh’s dreams of 15th Century Japan. Katana‘s premise has huge potential, and I am really so sad that I disliked it as much as I did.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I did not like one character. Not a single person. I disliked self-absorbed, naive Rileigh so much that even the spelling of her name bothered me. She and her best friend Quentin only talk about Rileigh’s problems, relegating poor Quentin (who might have otherwise been an interesting character) to stereotyped sidekick status, his only raison d’etre being to support/ analyze/ comfort/ fawn over Rileigh.

Supporting characters are equally aggravating. Rileigh’s mother really has no business even having a child; she is a selfish, stupid hag of a mother who truly possesses not one redeeming quality. Love-interest Kim, who somehow owns a successful dojo at age 18, is simply creepy. He stalks Rileigh at her home, her job, in the hospital; I cannot for the life of me fathom why Rileigh would trust him or do anything but run fast in the opposite direction.

The other love interest, Whitley, is equally creepy. Why would Rileigh, who had just been attacked a few days before, 1)wait for weirdo Whitley outside, alone, in the dark and 2) stick around for more than two seconds after Whitley says he feels “drawn to her” on their first coffee date? Ugh. Add incredibly stupid to the list of reasons Rileigh gets under my skin.

Characters aside, how many corny cliches can we fit into one book? We have the news report that alerted the bad guys to Rileigh’s powers, the ransacked room (that mom never notices), the stolen artifact, the conveniently-left-behind wallet, the mysterious box delivered by UPS (yet opened anyway despite numerous physical attacks–seriously?), a bad guy who gives away all his plans on the cell phone right outside Rileigh’s open window. Not to mention the damsel-in-distress, the flamboyantly gay best friend, the fighting biker chicks, the protective boyfriend-stalker, the absent and irresponsible mother…

THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite tremendous potential and originality, Katana‘s irritating characters and numerous cliched “plot twists” make reading it almost as exhausting and obvious as watching an hours-long marathon of Scooby Doo. Just say NO.

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