By David Kudler
ARC e-book, 230 pages (paperback)
2016, Stillpoint Digital Press
ISBN: 9781938808340 (paperback)
Expected Publication Date: June 15, 2016
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) because of her talented climbing skills, finds herself tied to a rich woman’s litter and walking through war-torn lands to her new home after her mother sold her. Confused, upset, alone, and unable to say goodbye to her mother and sister, Risuko has no clue what awaits her at the end of the journey. Along with a few other teenagers, she’s brought to a strange school where no one will speak about what everyone is training for. Risuko has no choice but to adjust to her new surroundings and uncover the mystery of her new benefactor.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book, especially because I enjoy Asian historical fiction and I haven’t read many young adult books in this setting. Also, the cover art is gorgeous (even though I didn’t have a physical copy to drool over)! However, I was underwhelmed by the story and writing. I’m so indifferent about this book, it’s actually quite hard to review it. I don’t think it’s a bad book – I have no desire to go on a tangent about awful characters or stupid quotes. But I can’t really recommend it either.
Risuko was a flat character. Yes, she had a nifty (perhaps semi-supernatural?) climbing skill and she was loyal and determined and kind to her friends, and blah blah, I’ve read a million characters like that. Nothing about her stood out. Her sad backstory didn’t evoke any sympathy as I read and I wasn’t invested in her future. The world building was lackluster but not terrible. Two forces were at war with each other, but it barely touched on Risuko and her “classmates.” Despite the talk of war and a minor skirmish or two, I never felt like any of the characters were in any real danger; nor did I feel like they could have any effect on the outcome. Lastly, the mystery surrounding the true purpose of the school felt like anything but a mystery as a reader, so when Risuko finally puts all the pieces together all I felt was frustration that it took her so long to figure it out.
This book was decent enough – it was a fast read and I’m not mad that I spent time reading it. In the end, I didn’t learn enough about the world and its rules (is there magic?), so I was never invested. It will be part of a series, but I won’t be continuing.