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Risuko Hardcover – June 15, 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


HISTORICAL/SUSPENSE THRILLER:  Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale is set in Japan in the sixteenth century with female warriors, one of whom is called Risuko. Along with two other apprentices, Emi and Toumi, Risuko arrives to their new home, which is filled with lots of secrets. Risuko is a nickname meaning squirrel - and she has an uncanny ability to climb just about anything!
Not a lot of authors write about Japan and Japanese culture, although it's very interesting. David Kudler does an admirable job of describing sixteenth-century Japan, with tons of details to make the setting come alive. The characters are easy to relate to, especially Risuko. The women were portrayed as strong and independent, especially unique if one thinks this was set in the sixteenth century. The story was filled with action, suspense, and a unique, well-crafted storyline. 
It is easy to invest in the characters, and once the reader starts this book, it's almost impossible to put it down. Risuko goes through a lot of character growth throughout the book. An entertaining story with excellent writing and haunting descriptions, a relatable heroine, and fast-paced writing. -- Majanka Verstraete, InD'tale Magazine

In this YA historical novel set in Japan s Sengoku period, a girl who adores climbing attends an unusual school. Your mother sold you to me this morning. With this, young Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) for her love of climbing, learns she s to accompany imperious old Lady Chiyome s palanquin. Risuko s father was a samurai, a prestigious occupation in war-torn 16th-century Japan. After being disgraced, he had to find work as a scribe; he taught Risuko to read and write, but with him dead now, the family is near starving and Risuko s best option is to comply. The traveling party undergoes a cold and dangerous journey as it tries to dodge the fighting between rival warlords. Along the way, Risuko displays some of her abilities not just climbing, but calligraphy, bird calls, and presence of mind when attacked. When they finally reach the Mochizuki compound, Risuko becomes a novice, believing that she s being trained as a shrine attendant. There s talk of initiates becoming kunoichi, which no one will explain: you ll just have to find out on your own. At first, the novices perform only menial tasks, especially kitchen work, but they eventually receive lessons in music, singing, and dancing. But suspicion and intrigue (both political and romantic), plus attempted thievery and worse, tear apart the Mochizuki community, leading to a dramatic confrontation with the truth. Kudler (How Raven Brought Back the Light, 2014, etc.) draws on one of the most fascinating elements of Japan s feudal period the kunoichi, or female ninja. (Mochizuki Chiyome is a historical figure who trained young women as spies and assassins, using cover identities such as shrine attendants, servants, and prostitutes.) Also intriguing are the cultural details that Kudler weaves into his story, such as the Retreat, a small building where Mochizuki s women stay during their periods. The characters are nicely varied and all the pieces fit into place deftly, such as how Risuko s dance movements and kitchen skills can be used in fighting. A tight, exciting, and thoughtful first volume in what promises to be a fine series about a female ninja. --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

David Kudler lives just north of the Golden Gate Bridge with his wife, actor/teacher/author Maura Vaughn, their author-to-be daughters, and their (apparently) non-literary cats. 
He is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief for Stillpoint Digital Press. Since 1999, he has overseen the publications program of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, for which he has edited three posthumous volumes of Campbell's previously unpublished work (Pathways to Bliss, Myths of Light and Sake & Satori) and managed the publication of over seventy print, ebook, audio, and video titles, including the third edition of the seminal Hero with a Thousand Faces. He is honored to serve as the vice-president for the Bay Area Independent Publisher's Association (BAIPA). 
He has just released Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale, his debut young-adult historical adventure novel. Set in sixteenth century Japan, Risuko follows the adventures of a young woman pulled into a plot that may reunite a war-torn Japan -- or may destroy it.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Stillpoint Digital Press; First edition (June 15, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1938808320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1938808326
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,169,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Original Post: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale at FLYLēF [...]

IT WAS ODDLY nostalgic reading Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler. The vivid portrayal of the Japanese culture brought back many fond memories of my childhood, a time when I was much more rooted in my Asian heritage.

Kano Murasaki, nicknamed Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl with a gift for climbing. Her unique talent catches the eye of Lady Chiyome, Head Mistress of a remote school in Mount Fuji. Risuko soon finds herself torn from her family and swept into a school that is much more than what it seems. Here, Risuko and orphans Emi and Toumi, are taught the ways of a Kunoichi—the Japanese art of becoming an assassin—in the hopes of possibly changing the outcome of a feudal Japan.

I’m drawn to Risuko and the young orphans for their misfortunes. Though complete strangers, they share a great responsibility to restore the honor to each of their family's name and legacy. But, I had difficulty seeing how they would achieve that. Emi is quiet and wears a perpetual frown, Toumi is often angry, or "growling [and] clenching her fist." Risuko is my favorite of the orphans for she is more resilient, curious and compassionate. Even so, the characters were simple, even childish at time, and fell a bit flat for me.

I enjoyed the older, secondary characters. Mr. Kudler poignantly and effortlessly captured the quiet and unspoken deadly art of an assassin through Meiko. As one of the highly trained assassins, and instructor to Risuko, she is as formidable in her ability to kill from the shadows, as she is gentle and feminine...beautiful.

The pacing was slow, with thorough attention dedicated to the culture: food (Korean, actually, but still mouthwatering), custom, and philosophy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminded me so much of Tamora Pierce's Tortall books, specifically the first Alanna or the first Kel book. Many of the plot-points are the same: a girl enters a new institution and spends all her time learning new skills, training, and passing tests. Only instead of a fictional fantasy world, Kudler's tale takes place during feudal Japan, during a time of civil war when different clans fought for political domination. Risuko's story takes place during the sixteenth century reign of Oda Nobunga.

Risuko, along with Emi and Toumi, are picked up by Lady Chiyome and taken to Mochizuki where the girls become novices and begin training to be kunoichi. The characterization is simplistic, with the author falling back on generalizations in character rather than creating fully fleshed-out people. Toumi (along with junior initiates Mai and Shino) are mean girls. Emi is the quiet one. And Risuko is the headstrong willful one who is too curious and smart for her own good. Even the more dominant background characters seem bit one-dimensional in characterization. Kee Sun, for example, is one who gets a lot of space in the book, but other than being Korean, dedicated to food, and jolly with a bit of a temper, there's not much to glean from him. Hopefully, this is something that is rectified in the second book.

There's also a whiff of "chosen one" to this story. Of course Risuko is a skilled climber, which becomes plot relevant many times. Of course Risuko is smart and clever.

That all said, I did really enjoy this book. The plot moves a bit slowly, and other readers may get bored with the day-to-day life of Mochizuki (it does devolve at times with this happened, and then this, and the this).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale, David Kudler recreates the world of war-torn, sixteenth century Japan with careful brushstrokes. The book begins with the view from a single tree and expands gradually outward, through the experiences and perspective of the young heroine. I found myself immersed in the world of the book, getting to know the characters and fascinated by the setting.

Risuko is on something of a hero’s journey; I’d expect nothing less from an author who has so closely studied Joseph Campbell. She faces self-discovery, growth, and moral dilemmas in this book, and no doubt the ones to come. I look forward to following her journey in the series!
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Format: Kindle Edition
I just finished the book and aaaaah!!!!

I haven't read that many books yet that are set in Japan, so this was totally new to me but wonderful. I really liked the setting and the world building. Really beautiful.

The book has a lot of characters, so it took a while for me to get really into them and figure out who was who. There's a list of all the characters in the back of the book, though.
I found myself caring for Risuko very quickly. From one moment to the next she got torn out of her normal live, away from her family to be put into a world that she didn't seem to understand. I mean, that alone made me wanna wrap her in a blanket and protect her from the world. There are also lots of great side characters that I really enjoyed reading.

The story is progressing really slow but I actually liked that. I'm so happy that the girls training is going slow and that by chapter 10 there wasn't already a sword in their hands and they had to save the world. Cause even though it was a slow progress their were still a lot of things happening.

A really great first book. I can't wait to read more of this story and see were things are going.
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