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*Jade Tiger* by Jenn Reese- young adult fantasy book review

Jade Tiger
by Jenn Reese
Grades 7-9 224 pages Juno Books October 2006 Paperback    

Just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup combines the two delicious tastes of chocolate and peanut butter into one even more scrumptious combination, Jade Tiger, the debut novel by Jenn Reese, combines the genres of kung-fu badass action/adventure with romance for a satisfying blend that should leave readers begging for more from this talented writer. It’s the story of half-Chinese, half-American kung-fu martial artist Shan Westfall and her quest to fulfill the goal of an ancient secret society to which her mother belonged - the Jade Circle - and bring together once more five jade animals stolen from their sanctuary. Along the way, she rescues and falls in love with Risley University archaeology professor Ian Dashell.

When Ian hears the sound of shattering glass coming from down the hallway, he goes to investigate. Seeing the still body of a security guard in a stairwell would give a lesser man cause for proceeding with caution, but hearing sounds of precious artifacts being smashed inside a room is more than he can take. He kicks open the room’s door and shouts “Stop!” His fighting skills are no match, however, for those of the one-eyed intruder he encounters within, known throughout the rest of the novel simply as “One-eye.” In search of the jade crane Ian possesses, he doesn’t care what artifacts might get destroyed in his quest. One-eye doesn’t realize that the crane is at the professor’s house and that Ian, though he’s had no martial arts training, does have the key to a cabinet that stores ancient weapons.

With a seventeenth-century Italian rapier, Ian manages to cut a gash across One-eye’s torso. This only enrages his assailant further, who kicks Ian in the temple. Fortunately for him, One-eye is not the only one looking for the jade crane to bring the five animals together. Shan Westfall shows up just in time to rescue Ian. It’s the first of many well-written fight scenes; Jenn Reese is a practitioner of the martial arts as well as being an author, and this makes the fights she writes about more believable. Shan possesses one of the jade animals, the tiger, and this influences both her fighting style and all other aspects of her character, including her love life. But as she feels their mutual attraction growing, she wonders if it may actually be caused by the power of the jade animals:
Were the ancient forces of the statues pulling her and Ian together, molding them into some human form of the Jade Circle?
Though Ian finds himself falling in love with the mysterious woman who has saved him, and Shan’s shares his feelings, she worries that his trying to help recover the remaining three animals may endanger his life. The risk might not be worth the cost. Ian, with his fellow archeologist friend, Buckley, nonetheless join forces with Shan in an adventure that takes the trio to France and the uncharted island of Shangri-La, owned by villainous martial arts expert Victor Ashton. They infiltrate the island under the pretense of going to an annual antiquity auction there to search for the other three jade animals.

The kung-fu action and sizzling romantic tension never let up. Shan, aside from her desire to rescue and gather the other jade animals, wants revenge on One-eye and Victor Ashton, who murdered her mother. Will Shan succeed in bringing the statues together before Victor does and stop him from discovering and using their mystical powers? How can Shan hope to have success, when she knows her mother was better than her and ultimately failed? When she comes face-to-face with a live tiger, the animal she seeks to emulate, will she survive the outcome?

Jade Tiger is a fast-paced, exciting tale twinning scenes of exhilarating fighting and erotic romance that leap off the pages like a Bruce Lee-style crescent kick. It’s a great debut novel that leaves the reader wanting to see more from its talented author, Jenn Reese. Some swear words, like the ones beginning with “s” and the “F-Bomb,” are dropped; these are not used to excess, though, and their use in context may actually enhance the overall realism of the book. This relatively minor point aside, Jade Tiger is a very good read. Shan Westfall is a good role model and proof that men aren’t the only ones who can be kung-fu badasses!

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