Book #23 of 2016: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler

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Can one girl win a war?
My name is Kano Murasaki, but most people call me Risuko. Squirrel.
I am from Serenity Province, though I was not born there.
My nation has been at war for a hundred years, Serenity is under attack, my family is in disgrace, but some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be a very special kind of woman.
All I want to do is climb.
My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls me Squirrel.

Risuko.
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?
Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers.

I received an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) through NetGalley for an honest review. I have not been compensated in any way.

Can I just start this out with: I LOVE THE COVER. It has that old world feel and tells you exactly what to expect. If you don’t know what/who a Kunoichi is, you would know that it has to be a badass woman. On top of that, the blossoms on the tree branches and the old parchment look of the cover screams Asian influence (as if the title didn’t already tell you that).

I love Japanese history. There is something intriguing and emotional about the feudal times. It feels almost magical to me versus the sickly feel the Western world emulates in the same time period. It might be because my dad introduced me to what little Japanese culture movies could give. It might be because I want to understand some kind of Eastern culture (having Filippino in the blood, I thirst for some kind of Asian connection). Sure, I’m not Japanese, but the culture and the artwork is beautiful.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, I would have to say that I was unsure about Risuko. The book is a quick read and it does follow a YA, leaning more towards MG, dynamic. The writing is beautiful and I did latch on quickly. The book is not a long read. It is quick and does have some excitement.

That said, the characters didn’t grab me at first. It was the world, the culture, and the way the writing was that kept me reading. The characters are interesting, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in them. Not completely. Near the end (about 80% in) I wasn’t flipping my epages quick enough.

I didn’t know how I felt about Risuko at first. She seemed to just flow with her circumstances without standing on her own two feet. It’s not until she makes the connection, a revelation that the reader knows pretty quickly, that she starts to have a stance. I’m not saying she’s dumb. It’s more like Risuko chose to be blind with the clues she was given. She wasn’t ready to see what she was going to be a part of. Not until the people she cared about were in trouble.

The book was easy to figure out. I pegged the main antagonist very quickly. However, that didn’t deter me from the book. It was more like I was thinking what I would do if I was writing the book. The clues Kudler gives the reader, and Risuko, are well thought out. I just figured it out quickly.

Will I read the sequel? Yes. I have started to really like Risuko and her fellows. Their personalities are so very different and given their joined history, it makes me wonder if they would be great friends as I imagine. The world is interesting and I would love to read more. I just hope that one day they would meet up with a blind swordsman one day (if you don’t know who I refer to, Ichi is a blind swordsman and a popular character in some movies.).

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