From the Booking Desk:
I am thrilled to host the cover reveal for the fourth book in Tori Eldridge‘s critically-acclaimed and award-winning series. The Ninja’s Oath sees the return of beloved character Lily Wong in another adventure that blends both mystery and thriller. And this cover is gorgeous! Read on to find out more about the book and to gain access to an early except. You’ll be sure to hit the pre-order links after that.
THE NINJA’S OATH takes Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja, Lily Wong, to Shanghai in an explosive joint mission with her father’s former-triad cook and the assassin J Tran. Get ready for the riveting next book in Tori Eldridge’s bestselling Lily Wong series!
International action adventure ensues when Lily Wong–a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja–travels from Shanghai to Japan to help family friend and former triad enforcer, Lee Chang, locate and rescue his kidnapped twelve-year-old niece while, back home in Los Angeles, her father’s health wanes.
Their mission is aided and complicated by an enigmatic assassin with a discomforting fascination for Lily. When the hunt for the niece leads to another missing relative, the trio of dangerous heroes–ninja, triad, and assassin–are pitted against an even greater foe. Meanwhile, Chang’s family must be moved from the shikumen house in Old Shanghai before the government tears it down. This would be simpler if not for the feud between brothers and the old resentments and intrigues entwined with the stunning history of the city itself.
Lily is pushed to her limits as she faces potentially insurmountable odds and worries about her father’s undiagnosed disease. At the same time, she is shocked by the true identity of her ninja teacher–known only Sensei–and the truth behind why he left Japan. THE NINJA’S OATH is the thrilling new novel in Tori Eldridge’s acclaimed, multi-award nominated Lily Wong series, sure to leave readers breathing and riveted until the last page is turned!
Order The Ninja’s Oath from Bookshop.org
Order The Ninja’s Oath from Barnes & Noble
Order The Ninja’s Oath from Amazon
Except from The Ninja’s Oath:
(NOTE: Formatting is not the same as it will appear in the book. Just the limits of the blog’s capabilities)
Soggy leaves squished silently beneath my boots as I picked through a tangle of branches and vines. After sprinting up the mountain, the need for stealth had slowed my pace. My lungs hurt—hot, wet air like drowning to breathe. The sickening sweetness of flowers and decay. I swallowed hard and picked my way through the treacherous roots, following voices through the jungle to my quarry ahead.
A cigarette burned brightly beneath a canopy so dense it blotted out the sun. The man wore a patchwork of military castoffs, American, French, and Vietnamese. Baggy pants bunched over combat boots, clownishly big for his size. Even so, he had a half-foot of height and a sandbag’s weight more than me. I approached from behind and melded with the trees.
He sucked in the smoke and tipped his head back to exhale. Bored and careless. He didn’t even flinch until I leaped into the air and chopped the blades of my hands onto the sides of his neck. Nerves deadened, the guard crumpled to the ground.
I crushed his cigarette with my toe, relieved him of the pistol, and stuffed it behind me in the waistband of my pants. I took his hunting knife and lighter, as well. Since my stunning attack wouldn’t keep him out for long, I slammed the knife hilt against his head, gagged his mouth, and tied his wrists and his ankles behind his back. Trussed like a turkey, I left him in the mud.
Men shouted up ahead. Although I feared what they might be preparing to do, I circled the perimeter to search for other threats.
Muddy leaves sucked at my boot. A second sentry snapped his head toward me. I froze, hands to my chest so my arms wouldn’t create a human silhouette and held the hunting knife poised vertically to throw. After three measured breaths, the man looked the other way.
I could silence him for good if I let the knife fly.
Was I willing to take a life?
Perhaps, but not yet.
I followed the voices toward a clearing with structures on one side and a training area on the other. Sunbeams spotlighted a horrible scene. As a handful of men chanted and jeered, boys fired rifles too powerful for their adolescent shoulders to brace. The younger boys strained to fire pistols. A few breadfruit targets exploded off stumps. Most remained, untouched.
Closer to me, dried-grass dummies suffered a more violent fate as child soldiers with machetes hacked off chucks of faces, shoulders, and legs. As the children shrieked battle cries warped by their fear, their trainers heckled and laughed.
Bullies like these needed killing.
Easy, Lily. All in good time.
I scanned the clearing for a familiar face. When I didn’t spot him, I darted past jeeps and motorbikes to the first structure in the camp, a barrack with hammocks and cots. I followed the stench of feces and sweat out of the main room into cells with cement floors, piss pots, and rotted threshes for beds. A rat glared at me from a food-crusted tin plate.
The next barrack was homier than the first with assorted comforts and belongings clipped to hammocks or stacked on the ground. The sight of books surprised me, although I didn’t know why. What else did these men have to do in their down time between raining terror and training children to kill.
Gun shots fired.
My friend needed help. I was running out of time.
I hurried into another room where a woman rose behind a kitchen counter with a bag of rice in her hands. I held out my palm to forestall her scream and slid the hunting knife in my cargo-pant pocket so she wouldn’t be afraid. Bruises marred her face and arms, but her slumped posture and dead eyes told me more.
“Do you want my help?” I repeated the question in French then pantomimed taking her with me as I left.
She shook her head and returned to her work. Either she doubted a lone woman like me could protect her from an army of men, or she had accepted her fate and simply wanted to survive. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that she truly wanted to stay.
I stepped forward to ask again but froze when an engine rumbled outside. The woman jerked her head for me to leave and knelt to clean up the rice she had spilled. I pulled the knife from my pocket and headed for the door.
A new crop of children had arrived in an open-bed truck. The driver stopped. Men jumped to the ground. One of them opened the tailgate and motioned with his rifle for the boys to get out. Most were teens. A couple might have been seven or eight.
They regrouped into a huddle except for one lone boy, skinny as bamboo yet rooted to the ground. Spine straight. Shoulders squared. He lifted his pre-adolescent chin. Not in fear. In defiance.
A boss man unstrapped his rifle and shouted commands at the boy. When he didn’t move, the man jabbed the barrel into his narrow chest. The boy stumbled back a few steps then recovered his balance with a skipping ninja-like step. Sensei had trained me to do the same. The movement came naturally to the boy as if ingrained.
When the boss man yelled again, the boy faced his new peers. The child soldiers lowered their weapons, puffed-out chests and taunts hiding their relief. Fresh meat had arrived. Their masters would have someone else to abuse.
The boy, on the other hand, gave nothing away, except for a slight lift of one peaked brow. His steely calm sent a chill up my spine. Although half the size and age of the youngest adult, he had the jaded composure of a man.
The guerrilla warriors laughed and congratulated their boss on the tough new recruit. When one of them grabbed the boy’s arm, he side-stepped him easily. Not to resist. To move of his own accord. Was it pride? Or did this boy not want to be touched?
The men and child soldiers parted to reveal a prisoner kneeling in the dirt, face lowered, wrists tied behind his back. Another prisoner lay dead beside him, limbs disjointed on the blood-soaked earth. Organs had escaped through the machete gashes across his belly, the head partially detached by unskilled hacks.
A soldier strode behind the kneeling prisoner and toe-kicked his spine.
As the man arched, I saw the person I had come to save. A man I had known all my life. The friend who had called me for help.
Uncle was more than my father’s crotchety old cook. Lee Chang had been the chief enforcer of the Shanghai Scorpion Black Society. A few days earlier, we had fought together in a Hong Kong alley where he bested tough young gangsters without breaking a sweat. How could Red Pole Chang have allowed a ragtag army of bullies to do this to him?
I darted past jeeps, barrels, and bales of dried grass, some bound into human-shaped dummies, just in time to see a gun slapped into the boy’s hand. The weight of it made his arm dip and flex. Other than that, the boy didn’t move. He stood perfectly still in front of the prisoner I had come to save.
Soldiers shouted commands. Their trainees took up the chant, whipping into a frenzy as if volume alone could prove their worth and keep the violence pointed away from them.
I grabbed a metal rod and pried open a barrel. Black and oily. It smelled flammable to me. I stuffed the legs of a dummy inside, lit the dried grass with the sentry’s lighter, and ran into the fray, pistol drawn to gun down as many soldiers as the magazine would allow.
The erupting fireball made the boy stumble and illuminated his face.
His cold eyes narrowed. The corners of his mouth raised into what would become a hauntingly familiar smirk. He didn’t run or hide. He didn’t slip into the chaos and hope to be forgotten. He aimed the gun at Uncle’s chest and fired.
The wheels hit the tarmac, drowning the gunshot with a roar, as I stared out the double-pane glass at my first glimpse of Shanghai.
Where had I been?