By: David Kudler
Release Date: June 15, 2016
Publisher: Stillpoint Digital Press
Series: Seasons of the Sword, Book #1
Award: BAIPA Great Reads Award - Best in Class
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler is a tale about a young girl, nicknamed Risuko, living in Japan in the age of the samurai. Her father died several years earlier, and she lives in relative poverty with her sister and mother. When the story opens, Risuko is sold to a rich women, with the intent of becoming a kunoichi – something she hasn’t necessarily heard of and doesn’t, at first, understand.
I instantly liked Risuko, both as the narrator and main character. She is alone and lost in a harsh world. As she is introduced to knew places and things, and learns new skills, so does the reader. Through her, we learn more about her father, her knew companions, and follow her to lessons.
The majority of the book does have a very slice-of-life quality. Politics, war, and greater happenings loom on the edges, present but not quite affecting Risuko’s everyday life. There is a sense of a greater world, to be sure. But most of our time is taken up with following Risuko’s everyday activities and evolving relationships with the other girls studying to be kunoichi.
The pacing increases greatly at around the 80 percent mark. This divide is sharp and dramatic, and I honestly wasn’t expecting such a turn. This is both a good and a bad thing. The action was fun. I enjoyed the quicker pacing, and seeing Risuko’s training and natural abilities at work. However, the antagonists motivations and reasoning weren’t effectively foreshadowed throughout the earlier parts of the novel. So while there were plenty of shocking twists and turns, not all of them felt like an ‘aha!’ moment and left a bit of head-scratching in their wake. I didn’t really understand the antagonists actions until Risuko asked point blank ‘why?’ While I most certainly received my answers, it wasn’t necessarily as satisfying an experience as it could have been.
Overall, I did enjoy Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler. Characters are well constructed and largely drive the story. If you like historical fiction, young adult novels, or anime I’d suggest giving this book a read.