**Update (9:19pm): This review is also featured on Risuko’s official website.
Risuko by David Kudler is my first ARC and I absolutely loved the main character and story. Being an ARC, however, it needs a little tough love before it reaches its full potential.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.
The first thing anyone will notice about Risuko is the killer cover. I actually fell in love with the cover alone; this book barely needed a summary & hook to get me reading at all! (It was designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Designs, if you’re wondering.) Brace yourself, then, to see the back cover. It’s awkward and cheap and broke my cover-loving heart.
It was hard to snap a photo that did the back justice without overdoing it, so you may have to take my word on this one. Imagine the author typing up the summary in a word document. Now print it out and paste it on the back of a paperback. It’s a weird, semi-transparent white block that only looks natural on the bottom half of the book, because that’s the only place where there’s anything in the background. Fingers crossed this is just because it’s the unfinished version. Whether it’s the amazing 10/10 of a front cover dragging down the back cover or it’s actually as bad as I think it is, I’m disappointed all the same.
Risuko is almost a diamond in the rough. It is so close to being a five star novel it hurts. It’s the sentences that snap you out of the story because they’re so awkward to stumble over. It’s reusing the same phrase three times in the first quarter of the book, and it wasn’t very good the first time around. (How many times can you physically do something without knowing you’re doing it?) It’s giving away the twist just a few sentences too early that doesn’t give the intended dramatic effect.
Now for the good news
Aesthetic lovers who noticed the cover before anything else will be pleased to know the styling doesn’t end when you open the page. The Japanese-inspired font graces every title page and there are even Japanese characters on the dedication page. More interesting, to me, was the use of discretionary ligatures connecting the “ct” and “st”s throughout. They reflect the story’s historical setting in 1570 AD, when it would’ve been cheaper for a scribe to take up less space on paper and have to lift his pen less frequently to save time.
Even the shape of the book felt more Japanese as it’s taller and skinnier, reminiscent of manga.
The story itself was perfect. By the end of chapter one, I was already invested in the main character, Risuko, and itching to turn pages. I ended up finishing the novel at 5 am because I couldn’t stop! This is a refreshing change from YA books that seem to lull until the midway point.
It should be noted, however, that despite the genre, Risuko isn’t a teenager, not even for her time. It’s explicitly stated that she’s hanging out with older “children” and that she hasn’t had her “moon time” yet. This gives the sequels an opportunity to watch her grow older. It does have the tendency to leave the first novel feeling middle grade with a few adult jokes thrown in, Disney style.
If you’re sitting on the fence about this one, I’m here to tell you: read this. You won’t regret it. The story is filled with character tension and growth, intrigue, and immersion in a Japanese world that feels incredibly authentic.
4.5 Stars to Risuko
With more than four months before publication, there’s plenty of time to fix up some awkward lines. Realistically, it’s unlikely that I’ll get my every wish, so I’m giving Risuko 4.5 stars in good faith that enough will be tidied up to make this novel everything it should be. I will 100% be watching for the sequel! In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for Risuko’s big debut on 15 June, 2016.
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.
What’s the best foreign novel you’ve read?
What’s your favorite time & place as a novel setting?