My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**Thank you to Stillpoint Digital Press for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**
Because this was cross-listed as Middle Grade and as Teens/YA, I wasn’t entirely sure to which side of that spectrum this book would lean. Having finished it, it’s most certainly more of a middle grade novel than a YA (young adult) novel, opening in an over-digestible “Hi, my name is…” fashion.
Although I know very little about Japanese culture and history — especially compared to, say, the Classical world — I get the feeling that Mr. Kudler has done a good deal of thorough-enough research to make me believe that he understands of what it is he speaks when he spends his time describing this novel’s world.
The pacing is consistent, though there is no denying the back half of this novel is superiour to the front half, which I found almost too careful in its effort to cram lots of information into very few pages without dragging the pace to a grinding halt. Perhaps this is the design: being lulled into a sense of calm with only but the hint of a dark undercurrent because, like Risuko, I felt like I, too, was clinging to a tree, distant from what was happening.
So I’m in a bit of a bind: while I can objectively acknowledge that this is actually a very, very good novel, my personal experience was one of apathy. There was a good deal of action happening, but I could not be stirred to emotion by them; the characters were in danger, but I never felt worried for them.
The easiest answer I can come to is that I am, very simply, not the target audience for this novel. So while it is good, I find it forgettable.