Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan’s search takes an unexpected detour when he travels ‘within’ guided by a mischievous and often maddening young girl named Nekko. Nekko’s origin is a Zen mystery, but her devotion to Hatter’s quest to find the lost Princess is unwavering. After Nekko kidnaps his Hat and leads him on a fearless chase across the rooftops of 1871 San Francisco, Hatter must acknowledge her as a teacher. It is written that when you are ready the teacher will appear, but if the teacher is a 12-year-old girl and you are a High Ranking Bladesman you may discover that all you can do is laugh.
Hatter and Nekko’s adventure around the ring of fire begins when they track a stolen samurai sword with a Wonderland connection to San Francisco’s styling 19th century hiphop crime madam Missy Tong and her eager protégé, the outspoken Lil’ Dick. A stowaway trip aboard a shanghai sailing ship ends on the Hawaiian Islands where a surfboard becomes Hatter’s vehicle to illumination. And then on to Japan! Good grief it’s Chikao and the gang, schoolhouse demons, cosplay, manga, noodles and a long lost brother from another world. Duality? No. Milliners.” (goodreads.com)
This was probably my least favorite for the series so far, mainly because it made me cringe with how stereotyped everyone of non-white ethnicity was. From the very stereotypical Chinese/Japanese accent to the mystical Japanese girl functioning solely to bring the white man to enlightenment, it was all so . . . stereotypical. It really clouded the story for me to the point where I’m having a hard time remembering around the stereotypes.
The thing is I’m not even sure if this sidetrack storyline was even necessary for the story arc itself. It just seemed like a way for the author to jaunt through history to a self-serving time period to mix things up a bit. This was more about Hatter trying to find himself, but I feel like there are better ways he could have done that. Or at least ways that didn’t employ Long Duk Dong-level stereotypes coupled with Matt Damon’s The Wall/white savior elements.
ZEN OF WONDER doesn’t really add much to the whole storyline so if you’re looking for one to skip, this would be it. It’s not like there’s any Hatter growth in it at all. It’s just all rather pointless.