This exciting tale of a girl in medieval Japan gives us a
view of another world. First we are told that a family
comes first, then the person's name, so the girl named
Murasaki is actually Murasaki from the Kano family;
she loves to climb trees, so everyone calls her Squirrel,
which is RISUKO.
Even hunting for birds' eggs to eat can be dangerous when
your country is at war. Risuko accidentally spies on the
lord in his castle, from the top of a pine. A cunning old
woman of importance sees how useful the girl could be and
buys her from her impoverished family. Lady Chiome is
neither kind nor unkind, but at least she provides food.
She has other young servants, all orphans, and armed
bodyguards. But Risuko's late father had been a scribe,
she alone of the servants can write. Risuko doesn't know
what she'll be asked to do, which might be just as well.
A war-ravaged land is revealed as Risuko travels. The
details are good; the girl is given a bowl of rice and
to eat with chopsticks, and over her new clothes she wears
a coat, hood and shoes made of woven straw against the
snow. Villages have been torched and homes destroyed, so
innkeeper wears a threadbare kimono as she makes a polite
gesture of welcome. Food is basic and scarce. In the
morning, the sound of musketry and cannonfire approaches,
with galloping hooves. Risuko doesn't know whose side the
samurai are on, and suddenly she's in the midst of a
The subtitle A Kunoichi Tale, first in the 'Seasons of the
Sword' series, comes about because the Kunoichi are
women, highly trained. Risuko first learns to defend
herself with a bamboo sword, harmless but good for picking
up movements. I like that a girl can be resourceful and
swing any weapon, including a heavy wok. She will also
to be a spy, probably the most useful way she can serve.
Perhaps eventually she can even stop the war.
The second book in David Kudler's series is called 'Bright
Eyes'. I'm impressed by the depth of his research and how
he makes us feel the adventure along with young Risuko,
shiver in the cold, marvel at the view of Mount Fuji.
There's violence along the way as one might expect, so
RISUKO is best suited for mature young adults who want to
explore, or to learn about a Japanese heritage.
Samurai, assassins, warlords -- and a girl who likes to
Kano Murasaki, you may not realize it, but I have done
you a great favor. I have it in my power to give you a gift
that you don’t even realize you desire. Make yourself worth
my trouble, and you will be glad of it. Disappoint me, and
you will be very, very sorry.
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.
The first volume of the Seasons of the Sword series!
Can one girl win a war?
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 possible have the power to change the outcome.