Kirin Rise: The Cast of Shadows


Author: Ed Cruz

Publication: 2014, AuthorHouse

Pages: 278

Overall Rating: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Chicago 2032. The middle class is all but gone, leaving teeming masses of the poor and a handful or the super-rich, all of them entertained by the new national sport – The United Federation of Mixed Fighting (UFMF). The top fighters are like rock stars, and the nation’s vast media network follows them 24/7. Enraged by government corruption and corporate greed, 19 year old Kirin Rise enters a tournament determined to bring the entire system crashing down around her. At first, all people can do is laugh when they see the 105 lb Kirin in the ring. But the laughing stops when she knocks out her first opponent with a single punch using a martial art most of them have never even heard of – Wing Chun Gung Fu. From that point on, Kirin is a hero. But being a hero can be dangerous – because the people at the top are determined to tear her down by any means necessary.

Age of Main Character: 19

What I Liked the Most: The book is peppered with tidbits of Wing Chun teachings and philosophy, both from the Wing Chun classes Kirin takes and from the training she draws on in her fights. While many books do provide martial arts action, few of them delve deeper into the philosophy that underpins those arts. And the character of Sifu – Kirin’s teacher – manages to embody much of that philosophy in his attitude and approach to life. I especially liked how he bucks the system of corporate franchise and mob protection by opening a noodle restaurant in his house – a restaurant with no signs, no menus, no advertising, and no prices. He with his whole heart that if he provides the best possible food, people will not only come, they will make donations in return for what they get. It flies in the face of every facet of corporate culture, but somehow it works. In the end, that story line turned out to be one of the most interesting parts of the book.

What I Liked the Least: In many ways this felt more like a 2nd draft than a finished product. It needed serious editing. At the most basic level, the book is full of awkward phrasing and minor typos, as in this paragraph – which is a fairly typical example of the writing:

I interrupted her question, raising my hand in excitement. The waitress didn’t share my enthusiasm as me and just lowered my food in front of me. My eyes popped open and my lips smacked as I began sliding both hands together, hoping something magical would appear, which it already had.

At a larger level, it felt like no one had really given the book a critical read and told Cruz which scenes and characters needed to be cut. The result is a somewhat bloated read, filled with scenes that do little to advance the story and a vast cast of characters, few of whom truly need to be there – including Kirin’s three best friends, who play no real role in the story line and serve as little more than a distraction.

My real problem, however, was that – just like most of the judges and announcers in the book – I never fully bought the idea that Kirin could win her fights. Cruz wants me to believe that with her Wing Chun skills a 100 lb girl like Kirin can take on vicious cage fighters two to three times her size. And in theory that’s fine. But Kirin ends most of her fights with a single punch, and Cruz never showed me anything about Wing Chun that would explain how she could do that.   Nor did he show how she translated her study of forms and Wing Chun techniques into the vicious and brutal mentality needed to engage in a no holds barred cage match. Simply put, I didn’t believe she was actually capable of the punishment Cruz had her doling out.

How Good was the Action? For a novel that’s supposed to be about fighting there’s surprisingly little action. Most of the UFMF fights are glossed over entirely. Of the three we see, two are over in a couple of paragraphs. Only three fights in the entire book extend to any real length – a test match in a restaurant between Kirin and seven opponents that is woefully vague and short on detail, an equally brief fight between Kirin and four thugs vandalizing her Wing Chun school, and the final UFMF match. That final match is probably the only true action sequence in the entire book and it’s decent at best, with too much explanation and too little real action.

How Engaging was the Story? I found it hard to get pulled too deeply into the book because of the odd way in which it was organized. Cruz has divided the book into twelve chapters, each of which starts out in “present” time telling the story of Kirin’s fights and the steady advance of her plan to take on the UFMF. After that, each chapter gives way to a collection of short stories told from the perspective of Kirin, her Sifu (teacher), and the people within the UFMF. But the chronological order in which the stories are told seems entirely random, which made it hard to establish a consistent story line and kept pulling me out of the action.

Overall Assessment: A book that offers up some interesting tidbits of Wing Chun philosophy, but overall felt bloated and poorly edited. It has potential, and could make for an interesting read, but only if the author goes back and does some major cutting.

Profanity: It’s profanity light – as in the only real swear ever used is “F___” and “F___ing.”

Sex: None

Violence: Mild violence, especially for a book about a fighting. Most of the fights are brief and the actual violence is hinted at but rarely seen in any real detail.

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