The Gatekeeper's Son
Junya, the protagonist, is a likable and relatable young man, bewildered by the sudden changes in his life but clever and resourceful. He was raised and coached in martial arts by his mother, Okaasan -- an upbringing he never understood until Shoko, the aforementioned hot girl in uniform, turns his life upside down, and Junya suddenly finds use for the skills he learned in his dojo at home (however unwillingly).
What I appreciated most was the strength of the female characters. Shoko is by turns charmingly naive and chillingly driven, a kind of 16-year-old samurai on a mission from god (or gods); while Okaasan is part Zen master, part drill instructor, and part mom. There’s no need for an explicit “girl power” message, and this is still very much a book guys will enjoy, but it’s a pleasure to see female characters portrayed as tough, resilient, capable, loving, and in positions of authority without being shrill, mannish, or sappy.
Another aspect of the novel I really enjoyed was the choreography of the fight scenes. They’re easy to visualize and follow, so you’re never jerked out of the story trying to picture who’s doing what. I love a good fight scene, so this was a big plus. :)
It’s a fun, fast-paced read, and I hope to see many more from Mr. Fladmark!