Review: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale

Posted June 13, 2016

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler
Series: Seasons of the Sword #1
on 15th June 2016
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley


Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan -- or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems.

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.

Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl, more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Yet she finds herself enmeshed in a game where the board is the whole nation of Japan, where the pieces are armies, moved by scheming lords, and a single girl couldn't possibly have the power to change the outcome. Or could she?

Kano Murasaki is more commonly known by her nickname, Risuko – Squirrel. Such is her aptitude for climbing her mother gave her the name and it stuck. She lives in Japan in 1570, a period of Civil War in the country.

During one of Risuko’s many climbing expeditions she is met by an older lady in a palanquin, along with her entourage. She tells Risuko that her mother has sold her, and consequently Risuko’s life changes dramatically.

Ok, so I have mixed feelings on this book. I really loved the Japanese setting, the cultural and historical aspects of the novel. What I was less keen on was the pace of the actual story itself. I wasn’t swept up in it – I wanted more action, particularly on Risuko’s part. Instead, I felt like this book was more of a scene-setting story, a prelude to future books where, I assume, we will see more action.

As for the characters themselves, I really didn’t feel very connected to them. I didn’t care enough about them. There are many characters in this novel and while I obviously have some I preferred to others, I really wish there had been more substance to the characters on the whole. Just a personal opinion.

The story is told through the eyes of Risuko. Consequently, we see things as she does – which can be amusing at times. She’s a young, naive girl and so while she may not realise what’s going on around her, we (well I, as an older reader), see what she’s missing.

I believe this novel is aimed at the Young Adult audience, however at times it read (to me) slightly more Middle Grade. That said, some of the implications and suggestions in this book are definitely more YA appropriate.

Honestly, I did enjoy this novel. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it as well as the historical setting. However, I think I went in expecting more but that’s my own fault entirely.

I feel that this series is nicely poised for the second book and that perhaps book 2 will fulfil more of what I’d hoped for book 1 – action, heroism, self-discovery. I will pick up the next book to see where the series goes – it has so much potential.