Book Riot Challenge: Risuko

Read a historical fiction novel set before 1900. For this challenge I chose Risuko by David Kudler. 

Risuko, meaning squirrel in Japanese, is a book about a young girl around the age of eleven, nicknamed Risuko for her love of climbing, who is taken from her parents to live with an older woman and a group of young girls who are all in training for something Risuko doesn’t yet understand. 

The book is set during the 1500s in Japan which is a really interesting time and place. I was intrigued to find out about their way of life and beliefs. I leant some interesting things about samurais and their fighting methods. I was also particularly interested in how these women dealt with their ‘Moon Time’ where they were sent off to a separate building called The Retreat. Unfortunately, as the main character does not ever go there we only get a brief insight.

Unfortunately, for me, this is where the things I liked about this book ends. I would give it two out of five stars. All of the characters had unfamiliar names that I struggled to get used to. This was only a problem however because these characters also had very little personality. When they were talking I struggled to tell the difference between characters, and was constantly referring back to try to understand who was who and what was happening.

At the start of the book Risuko is bought from her family and forced to leave. Why wasn’t she more concerned about this? Why isn’t she more upset? Besides a couple of pages thinking about her dad, Risuko doesn’t seem to care, which in turn makes the reader also not care.

As soon as the chef (I only finished it this morning and I’ve already forgotten their names – that’s how forgettable they are) mentioned other uses of herbs I knew that someone would be poisoned. When it finally happened I was unsurprised. However, despite the method being clear, I do not think the intentions were clear. (Perhaps they were clear and I was past caring when they were revealed.)

This book had a lot of potential but to me it fell flat. Unfortunately I will not be continuing on with the series. I did however enjoy learning about this era of Japanese history and so will look for other books set at this time.

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