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Risuko (Seasons of the Sword) Hardcover – June 15, 2016
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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.
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Top customer reviews
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!
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). Others may enjoy it as it is nice worldbuilding and lets the reader learn what it was like in one of the centers that trained elite warriors. There is also enough hints of Risuko's larger purpose that I'm extremely intrigued where Kudler takes the character.
Readers who already enjoy Tamora Pierce and similar authors would enjoy this. I'm looking forward to the second book.
I received a free review copy from the publisher.
Onto the main event! This review is something I've been looking forward to because I found myself enjoying this novel far more than I have the last dozen or so books I read. My review will remain spoiler free from anything that isn't in its blurb, because this is something readers must find out for themselves.
Clear your to-read shelves and piles, grab yourself a nice ice cold drink and have a night in with this one. Impossible to put down, fast paced and--well--INCREDIBLE. I liked how there were some missing details and pieces to the story--I wasn't sure how old the characters were, for example--but found this to be utterly appealing. Another thing readers should note is that there isn't any forced romantic interactions in this one, so if you're reading this thinking "ugh, young adult!" then you should, well, hush. I'm really hyped from the novel so.
Back on track, Jessica. Back. On. Track.
Risuko is one of the most engaging young adult novels of the year and is the perfect start to what is sure to be a can't miss series. Let's take a moment to talk about the author. David Kudler's writing? Phenomenal. Not only is the prose excellent, the plot is promising and thoroughly solid to read. Admittedly, my first thought when I saw Risuko up for grabs on Net Galley was "holy crap, that's a beautiful cover" and then fell head over heels for the summary/blurb. But, I can say with 100% certainty that even if you pick this novel up purely because of the cover, you're going to want to stick around for the story itself.
In obscenely flawed and over crowded genre, Risuko could have been the worlds biggest miss but it wasn't and here's why. The characters are incredible--they're fascinating, they're well rounded and well written; if any other author had approached this, I don't think there would have been half as much spark and development. It's easy to like Risuko because of this and young readers are sure to adore her. She's certainly the sort of character young girls can look up to and what's refreshing about this is that she feels so real. Not to harp on male authors, because clearly that isn't the case, but sometimes I find the tone in which men write women to be flaky at best and miss out on a lot of great qualities and what could have been. Kudler isn't one of those authors.
The best part about Risuko is how vivid the writing is and how easy it is to follow, without being dumbed down in any means. Excellent world building and history; with a storyline that just gets better as the pages turn. I would be lying if I said I hesitated and had some concerns when it came to this novel, but it's a real gem. You're not going to want to miss this one and despite how campy the genre can be, this isn't your average young adult book and that's what makes it such a blast. David Kudler, I've got my eye on you!
There's something about Risuko. Welcome to your new YA obsession. A world of war, excellent characters, delicious prose--what more could you want?
Most recent customer reviews
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