Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler is the first book in the Seasons of the Sword series. Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. 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. Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers.
Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale was a nice surprise. I am a big fan of Japanese culture and mythology, and the classic coming of age quest story, so I was drawn to the book and needed to give it a chance. I greatly enjoyed the character building for Risuko, she is a growing, dynamic character that is very observant of the world around her. While the reader only knows what Risuko see and hear, sometimes we can understand more than she does and enjoy the realization as it comes. Because of her uncertainty and struggles the readers get to see and understand more than they might with a different narrator. I like that there seem to be no assumptions on the authors part about how much or Japanese history or folklore the reader knows, or does not know. The world building is solid but subtle, so at no point does ignorance of a certain word, story, or event turn off a reader. Additionally there is a collection of related information at the end of the book to sooth the eager minds of any reader that seeks to understand more about anything they might not have fully understood while reading. I found myself so wrapped up in Risuko's story, that I finished the book in less than a day, begrudging the menial tasks that took me from the read, like making meals for my family and eating.
Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale is a wonderful read for middle grade, young adult, and older readers. I think anyone that enjoys historical fiction or the coming of age combined with a quest that seems to be most common in fantasy. I think this will be a wonderful surprise for any reader that gives it a chance. I cannot recommend this read highly enough.