Girl Takes up Her Sword is book 3 of The Emily Kane Adventures and I honestly think it's the best yet. Emily has found her confidence and though she's still trying to give the occasional kick against Granny's fate she has largely accepted her place in the cosmos. And oh, what a place it is!
Emily is a strong, independent, self-assured heroine. So often in YA fiction authors present mixed messages on this front. A girl might have mad skills or some super power, but she doesn't have the heart to really do what needs to be done. (The implicit message being that she is too soft or weak to really be strong after all.) There's often some hero sidekick who actually saves her from dirtying her hands, thereby co-opting her presentation as a truly strong heroine. Antoine has the integrity to let Emily be as strong as she needs to be. Now, I'm not saying she doesn't regret the things she has to do or even that she isn't occasionally disgusted about them, but she also doesn't back down from them or hesitate so long some man takes over for her. (And believe me she is surrounded by plenty of strong, well trained men.) I respect this immensely.
I only have two real qualms with the story and they are related. So it could actually be one multidimensional problem. Either way, I'm gonna sketch it out, but first let me say that I understand why the author wrote it this way. I see the message he's trying to convey with it. I just thought it was a little too much for me to accept.
First off, despite being a senior in high school Emily is very much in charge in this book. In one way or another black ops soldiers take orders from her. Elite assassins take orders from her. Her sensei takes orders from her. Her mother takes orders from her. Her friends take orders from her. Her friends' parents take orders from her. The Yakuza take orders from her. Burly biker dudes take orders from her. There is almost no one who has any control over her or even has the backbone to say 'no' to her. She is the top dog in all respects. The primary reason people backed down? They saw something in her eyes that made them give up. There are a lot of social dictums that this contradicts. It ignores basic social hierarchies, not to mention martial and military ones. I have a really hard time imagining that she'd succeed in the 'take orders' environment of a military academy, or even the military itself.
On a related issue is the fact that, with the exception of David, every single person she encountered gave in to her mysterious charm. There were a lot of situations in which I couldn't figure out how people were so easily brought over to her side, when normally they would be seeking retribution from her or maybe revenge against her. It is very obvious that Emily is supposed to have an almost paranormal charisma about her (this is a large part of the story), but I don't think it felt very realistic in the end. She too easily leapt huge interpersonal hurtles.
Like the previous books Antoine's writing is crisp and easy to read. The fight scenes are meticulously detailed and the martial techniques clearly explained. There is a lot of focus on the mystic aspect of training and unlike the previous books this starts to have a concrete effect on the events of the story. If you like strong female protagonists, martial arts, mysticism or just an interesting read. This is worth picking up.