Tom Yamada seems like any 15-year-old but he's actually a supreme martial artist, training daily to face a terrifying challenge when he turns 30. It's his destiny to fight the 5 Lords of Pain - demons who have been trying to break into our world for centuries. But something's gone wrong. Tom must face the 5 Lords now - and no way is he ready. If he loses, a new Dark Age will begin. No pressure, then ...
Dragon has attitude. Forget the lord of the mountain, Tom has a nemesis in Dragon's attitude. I like how Tom explores the oddity of Dragon's dual personality. They were the thoughts that I had as a reader.Dragon is like most martial arts masters in novels: extra tough on students, but deep down he cares a lot for them, even Tom.
I had figured the Contest was a big deal for Tom, but the seriousness of what would happen if he lost sobered me up a fair bit. I think that I won't be able to release my breath (metaphorically) until I finish the fifth book. I love books like this which have me on the edge of my seat until I finish them.
Elemental gems piqued my interest. Gems are renown in fantasy stories, be they books or - and especially - in video games. I wasn't disappointed with where the gems led Tom.
Tom's attitude as someone embarking on a long road before reaching his final goal is realistic. He is living for the now, not quite seeing why he should develop good habits now when he has years ahead before facing the trials (or so he thinks). Tom isn't confident. He may look the part of hero but he doesn't feel like one. Yet, even if he had more years of training I don't think anyone could ever be ready to fight such a powerful being. These weaknesses make him an appealing character.
The way Tom's mother plays a prominent role is pleasing to see. She knows exactly what is going on, cares about him dearly and speaks honestly with him. She doesn't exaggerate his abilities or wrap him in cotton wool. She has her concerns, which Tom agrees with. But he finds a way to meet those concerns head on.
I couldn't figure out how the lord of the mountain was connected to rain and water. If anything I would connect him with earthquakes or landslides. Mountain to me represents solidity, like the earth. My thoughts on this were correct, which mystified me about the water unless i was just the elements reacting to the lord preparing for battle. Now, the material used to cloak the battle from the outside world fits the lord of the mountain's personality perfectly.
I felt it interesting how Tom feels that Kanji, one form of Japanese writing, can look malicious. I've only ever viewed it as beautiful. I suppose the message written for Tom isn't a friendly invite to a tea ceremony, which explains his mixed view point.
The venue of the duel will interest readers, explaining a bit about England's heritage. The explanation of how the site was constructed centuries ago without the benefit of modern technology reminds me of how clever mankind has been in construction throughout time. I'm specifically not naming the place so I don't spoil the story.
At one point in the fight I turned a bit green at the rather gruesome description. I enjoy getting these feelings because it shows how engrossed in the story I am.
The end was funny, with a real sense of anticipation for what lies ahead for Tom. The other lords will not be as easy to defeat, but I believe he will get through it. The costs that the fights will have on his life, now that is a different matter. I hazard a guess that something at some point will happen to his mother, thereby raising the stakes for the contest.
The terms of fighting styles and weapons are easily assimilated with unobtrusive, clear definitions woven into the story. The small glossary at the back of the book is useful for reference.