*ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
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.

Author: David Kudler
Release Date: June 15th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Series: Seasons of the Sword, #1

Can one girl win a war?

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?


“No harm,” he said as he danced on, cutting the air. Only now, the snowflakes began to bleed as he cut them. Battle of white and scarlet…
“Oto-san, what can I do?” I wept in the dream, my tears freezing to my cheeks.
“Dance,” he said, his face still and calm, his blade whistling through the air. Blood flew from the tip of the sword, painting characters of death and disaster across the white ground.

What a lovely, page-turner-compulsion inducing introduction to a series I look forward to read more of!

Well-written and compelling, Risuko tells a gripping story born of the idea of an historical figure named Chiyome Mochizuki who, during the Japanese Civil War Era (16th century), under the cover of training miko – shrine maidens – was assembling an army of kunoichi aka  female spies, bodyguards, and assassins.

It has a much appreciated anime-like feel to it. It actually felt like kind of a mash up of Inuyasha, what with all the red-white dressed belligerent miko and the richly described settings, and Memoirs of a Geisha (young girl torn away from family and forced to live hundreds of miles away with people she has never met), thus managing to convey a deep story in a light and pleasant manner.

A fascinating reading experience for those who are interested in historical samurai type stories, with just the right amount of historical details and descriptions, and cultural info.

There are so many lines and quotes I loved, but among them I want to ponder on this one particularly:

“Soldiers falling fast
Battle of white and scarlet
Blossoms on the ground”

This haiku, which Risuko writes down as one of her oba-san’s, reminds me of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Soldati:

“Si sta come d’autunno,
Sugli alberi le foglie”

If you translate it, it’s basically likening soldiers to the leaves of trees in Autumn.
The concept which both the haiku and Ungaretti’s two-liner convey is the same. The haiku, in my opinion, holds the essence of the entire story: war distroys, life is a feeble thing and it’s preciousness is overlooked, trampled like leaves and blossoms on the ground.

On a lighter note: that cover designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Designs is a real draw in! I am in love with it: it looks stunning.
Here my Cover Commentary on it.

Can’t wait for the sequel!