Book Review: The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge

The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge is an action-packed thriller about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja with Joy Luck Club family issues who fights the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob, sex traffickers, and her own family to save two desperate women and an innocent child.

The Ninja Daughter

Tori Eldridge

November 5, 2019

The story of a modern-day ninja warrior following the code of the #MeToo movement, The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge is as impactful as a throwing star.

The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge is a debut novel that is perfectly positioned as the first in a series following a lovable, yet deadly, young female ninja in Los Angeles.

If a man dares get too frisky with Lily on the subway, he might lose a finger or two.

Lily Wong is diminutive in stature, hence the nickname “Dumpling”, but she has the fighting skills to effortlessly take down large men and the stealth to sneak into many places undetected. Living and working at her father’s restaurant, Lily uses her ninja skills as a guardian angel for abused women. She whisks them away from abusive relationships and delivers them to a shelter. Sometimes, she quietly intervenes on behalf of sexual assault accusers who have gone public.

If a man dares get too frisky with Lily on the subway, he might lose a finger or two.

Lily dedicated her life to ninja martial arts and helping women after he sister was raped and murdered. That tragedy derailed her ambitions in college and her interest in romance. She spends so much time-saving women from horrible men that she can’t allow herself to trust any man, even a gentlemanly Chinese businessman her mother tries setting her up with. The question of whether Lily can allow herself to love is almost as pressing as the action in this story.

Daniel Kwok was a handsome man. He just wasn’t my type—way too Chinese. I preferred Caucasians. No surprise there, considering that I adored my father. But after Pete—with his caramel hair and gingerbread eyes—Caucasian men reminded me of everything I had thrown away. I didn’t deserve kindness and love. But did I deserve a perpetual reminder of my mother? I hoped not. Daniel represented everything I did not want to become—obedient, deferential, and ambitious.

The novel begins with Lily tied up to a metal scaffold and getting beaten with a braided rope by a Ukrainian mob goon. She was helping the wife and child of the thug’s boss escape domestic abuse. Instead of feeling fear, Lily is like a coiled cobra, knowing she’ll deliver a fatal strike when her foe least expects it.

Later, Lily finds out the woman she’d been trying to protect, Kateryna Romanko, returned to her criminal husband. Despite Lily’s pleadings and the constant threat of violence from Dmitry Romanko, Kateryna is afraid to leave.

Meanwhile, Lily latches onto a case that’s been all over the news. Cocktail waitress Mia Mikkelsen had her reputation dragged through the mud after she accused J Tran, a handsome yet mysterious man, of assaulting her in her home. The charges against Tran were dismissed and Mia fears for her safety amid the “victim shaming” on social media.

Lily becomes Mia’s personal protector, which means digging into the secrets of Mia’s life she’d rather not talk about and trailing Tran. Much to Lily’s surprise, she finds Tran has deadly martial arts skills that rival, or perhaps surpass, her own. But Tran is out to kill, not to save people.

And, even though she hates to admit it, Lily finds Tran irresistibly attractive.

Parts of Lily’s character are autobiographical for Eldridge. They both have Chinese heritage on the mother’s side and North Dakota Norwegian heritage on the father’s side. The references for both cultures as Lily interacts with her parents make this an endearing character. Eldridge is a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do Ninjutsu, so the fighting scenes are crisp and realistic. The only drawback is some of the fighting stances she describes are hard for a novice to understand, but the point certainly gets across when Lily disables hulking men in seconds.

With complicated family dynamics, her repressed love life, the quest to avenge her sister and the constant calls from abuse victims in Los Angeles, Lily has a full plate on her table that should last beyond this story. Hopefully, this Dumpling will kick her way through many more adventures.

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