|I started this book with enthusiasm, expecting it to be an historical fiction novel about Japan, but although it was based on historical fact, I hadn't anticipated that it would be quite so much a YA adventure story. I'm afraid I really struggled to connect with the book. Admittedly the Japanese names didn't help, but many of the characters blurred into one another for me and it was only in the second half that I managed to distinguish between them.
I was listening to the audio version, available on Audible, but unfortunately I found the voice of the narrator piercing and irritating. She tended to raise her voice at the ends of sentences, inferring questions that were not there, and although she was perfectly clear with her narration, this intonation jarred with me. And why did the Korean chef have a Scottish accent, did I miss an explanation along the way?
Kano Murasaki, or Risuko, also known as Squirrel (no wonder I'm confused!), was bought from her parents early in the book. I think it may have had something to do with her father's loss of honour, but I wasn't quite sure. She finds herself under Kee Sun's care, training to become, not only a Miko (a shrine maiden) but also a fighter and a spy, to defend her country, her honour and her owner.
There are several other novices studying with her at The Full Moon, learning varied skills from cooking to dancing and music to sword-play. It's a grueling training regime, but they are kept well fed and comfortable and it is therefore an improvement over their home lives.
Intrigue between the residents of the Full Moon provides most of the excitement, until a series of suspicious events allow Risuko to prove her skills.
This book did prompt me to look into Miko and their history in Japan, and for that I am grateful. Personally, I shan't be following the series, but I'm sure those that do will learn quite a bit about the lives of these women and their roles in Japanese society.