By Jon F. Merz, St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99, 296 pages

10It’s nice to find a vampire novel that makes its own ground. The Kensei follows Lawson’s adventures in Japan. He is there for a well-deserved vacation, and plans to merely take in a few classes while he’s there. However, the brother of an old enemy finds that Lawson is in his neighborhood, and starts making life difficult for him. Throw in an all-too-astute detective with his own secret and Lawson’s girlfriend who is in Japan on her own trail of vengeance, and you have the recipe for high adventure.

Although it’s fun to see the hero really have to work for his victory, Lawson’s appearance usually means that someone is going to die. However, that’s the only major beef. The plot develops quickly and there is no waiting around for something to happen. The characters also work together well, playing off each other, and it’s nice to see characters comfortable with each other that must still work for that comfort zone. That the vampire doesn’t just bite people for power is a refreshing twist. The Kensei is a great read, and a great remedy for sparkly vampires that are too mired in their own angst.

Reviewed by Jamais Jochim