8 Rated Books Book Reviews

I Love This Series: “Sisters of the Sword” by Maya Snow

To date, Ana has been the one with a monopoly on these “I Love This Series” posts – but finally it is my turn! *insert evil cackle*

Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about a series called the “Sisters of the Sword” by Maya Snow. The series currently comprises three titles: Sisters of the Sword, Chasing the Secret, and Journey Through Fire. The books were published by HarperCollins and released in the US in 2008 and 2009.[1. There seems to be a fourth book in the series, published in the UK and titled Crushing the Stone and in the US as The Battle Dawns, but, infuriatingly, I cannot find a copy for purchase anywhere. Argh. Garr.] As we have been doing for all the posts in our “I Love This Series” series, this review is more of a general overview of the Sisters of the Sword books and will be completely spoiler free.

I see you blink with surprise. A girl? you are thinking. Surely a girl cannot be asamurai. But you are wrong.

Kimi dreams of being a great samurai warrior, but she and her sister, Hana, are young ladies of ancient Japan, daughters of the Jito of the province. Her future seems clear: Girls do not become samurai.

Then, a murderous betrayal shatters the sisters’ world. Suddenly, Kimi and Hana are thrown headlong into a life of warrior codes, deadly swords, and dangerous enemies. Life has swept them into an adventure more heart-pounding than the sisters ever could have imagined . . . and once it has been set in motion, nothing will ever be the same.

The story is thus: Kimi is a headstrong young teen girl, a noble daughter of the local jito, or lord samurai, in feudal Japan. She’s thrilled when her Uncle Hidehira shows up to visit her family home, as Hidehira always spares time for his nieces and nephews, and tells Kimi stories of his life on the road as one of her father’s most trusted, sworn samurai warriors. Although Kimi’s father is actually the younger Yamamoto brother, he was named jito by his father after earning that right by displaying superior fighting, strategic, and leadership skills as a young man. Despite being jilted of his title as the eldest son, Hidehira has always loyally supported his younger brother’s rule, and served as the most loyal samurai in his ranks.

But everything that Kimi and her family have ever thought about Hidehira is about to change.

While her father, uncle, and two older brothers participate in a private ceremony, Kimi convinces her reluctant younger sister Hana to eavesdrop with her (Kimi has always wanted to be a fighter and longs for the glorious life of a samurai, while her elegant sister Hana does not). In silent horror, both sisters witness their beloved uncle murder their unsuspecting father and older brothers in cold blood – seizing the title of jito for himself and at last revealing his true nature as a man corrupted by jealousy and hatred. Hidehira then orders his samurai to search the estate to find and slaughter the remaining family members – Kimi, Hana, their mother, and baby brother Moriyasu. Unable to find their mother and brother as the samurai ravage and burn their home, Kimi and Hana flee to the woods, desperately trying to lose the murderous samurai in pursuit. Thanks to their father’s basic training lessons, the two sisters are able to slay one of their pursuers, but they know they must immediately find refuge or face certain death at the hands of their usurping uncle. With nowhere else to turn, the girls stumble upon Master Goku’s dojo – a highly respected training academy for noble children, and the school that Kimi and Hana’s brothers attended before being killed. Determined to survive, the sisters disguise themselves as skinny peasant boys and beg for entrance at the dojo. The fair and wise Master Goku allows them to work in the dojo’s kitchens after sensing their determination and testing their skill at fighting, and he promises them the possibility of becoming students if they work hard for their keep. Relieved, Kimi and Hana feel like they have found safety at last…but a familiar face at the dojo (none other than their arrogant cousin Ken-Ichi, son of Hidehira) takes an instant disliking of the sisters, and will not stop bullying them and their friends.

Soon, not even the dojo is safe, as Hidehira begins to seize control of all the surrounding territories and provinces, bringing his hunger for power to Master Goku’s door. The girls know they cannot stay disguised forever, and they dream of finding their mother and baby brother. As their Uncle draws nearer, Kimi stokes her rage, vowing that she will get strong enough, fast enough, and skilled enough to kill Hidehira, and restore honor to the name Yamamoto.

At first glance, the Sisters of the Sword series seems like just another drop in the orphaned child-seeks-vengeance ocean. Certainly, familiar tropes abound, especially in the first book. There are the wronged/orphaned children, the girls dressing as boys to survive and apprentice as warriors in a culture that does not allow women to become warriors, as well as the requisite struggles with vengeful bloodlust versus doing the right thing. Ok, yes, Sisters of the Sword is all of that. Also, the writing style for the books (especially in Sisters of the Sword) is very simple and straightforward, suited to an upper Middle Grade/young YA audience, and there is a frustrating use exclamation marks early in the book (which is a little annoying, just for my personal preference – maybe other people don’t mind exclamation marks. I digress). BUT, all that said…

Sisters of the Sword uses all of these tropes in a perfect way. In many ways, the series reminds me of another beloved, wronged orphan – he who must be named as Harry Potter. Like Harry Potter, this series starts out very young in terms of protagonist and style, but with a copious (and foretelling) amount of tragedy. As with Harry Potter, good and evil are very black and white – or are they? In Sisters of the Sword, though Hidehira is the embodiment of irredeemable evil, there are a number of other characters with some unexplored depths. In the case of dojo bully Ken-Ichi (who is SO Draco), there is some humanity and frailty in him, despite his uncle’s treachery (even when Ken-Ichi commits an unspeakable act, it isn’t what he has wanted to do – this is one character that I *know* will make a reappearance in the next book, and I will bet anything that his story will be a complex one). And, as with Harry Potter, as the series progresses, these simple dividing lines between “good” and “evil” become ever-more blurred as the characters, Kimi and Hana especially, grow and change, pitting friends and family against each other. By the end of book 3, things have changed dramatically. Make no mistake – this is a series full of violence and blood, heartache and triumph.

Which brings me to my next point: the two main protagonists in this book, Kimi and Hana, freaking ROCK. Although the books are narrated solely by Kimi, Hana is just as much a part of the story as her impulsive sister. I love the dynamic between these two, and how their relationship of unconditional trust and love begins to show the strain of their ordeals as the series progresses. Kimi, of course, is my favorite character, with her fiery temperament, almost self-destructive courage, and her frank inability to sit back in the face of danger. I love that Hana is just as talented as Kimi, but in a different way. While Kimi has always thirsted for adventure and action, Hana has been the elegant, graceful, restrained sister. While Kimi has taken after her father, Hana is her mother’s child (as becomes clear in Through the Fire). Also, I should mention how much I loved that despite Kimi and Hana being skilled fighters, trained in the basics by their warrior father, brothers, and (ironically) Uncle, they are not nearly so talented or strong as the boys their age (although with training and dedication, the girls get there – but even trained, rest assured that they are not infallible amazonian women). The secondary characters are wonderful additions as well, and for every friend the sisters make on their trying journey, there are enemies, traitors, and betrayals aplenty.

So what else do I love about Sisters of the Sword? Well, the history is gorgeous, and fully detailed throughout the series, as are the Japanese names, words, and customs, and the different traditions. From ikebana to poetry, to the training and fight scenes, the Sisters of the Sword is an immensely readable series (I devoured these three titles in as many days). Also, can I say that I also loved the way that the societal roles of women were laid in this series? Although there is a rigid system of power, and women are not samurai or lords, they are trained in different ways of fighting, especially amongst the nobility. Ms. Snow writes this balance of power and tradition perfectly.

Through the Fire, book 3, ends with a dramatic, heartbreaking development, and with Hidehira’s cold steel grip closing on the shogun’s territory, the stage is set for an epic battle of retribution. I don’t know how many books are planned in this series, but I do know there is room for much, much more to come. And I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens next.

This is a series that I would recommend in a heartbeat to everyone: younger, middle grade readers that love adventure stories, as well as those readers yearning for a setting change from the typical western/caucasian homogeneity, and older readers those who remember the early days of reading Tamora Pierce, and Robin McKinley, or, yes, even Harry Potter. Although there’s no fantastical magic to this series (it’s straight-up historical fiction), these books just keep getting better. Absolutely, wholeheartedly recommended.

Overall Series Rating: 8 – Truly Excellent

Reading Next: The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

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31 Comments

  • Andrea
    February 9, 2011 at 3:07 am

    You mightn’t be able to get a copy of “Crushing the Stone” because it’s not 2012 yet?

    http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780192728326/Crushing-the-Stone

  • Thea
    February 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Thanks for that, Andrea. I guess my confusion was because numerous other sites listed that the book was already published in the UK in 2010. So…yeah.

  • Ashleigh
    February 9, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I want this series yesterday. It sounds like it is right up my alley and that I would enjoy it. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of these books before! Thank goodness that there are many book bloggers like you around to expose me to these underexposed and wonderful books.

  • KMont
    February 9, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I LOVE the sound of these books! Not just for me, but to read ahead for my daughter. I’ve been trying to save up some books that she might like one day, the Harry Potter books definitely being some. Thanks for the rec on this series!

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  • Thea
    February 9, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Ashleigh – I hope you get a chance to read these! Before I saw a copy of Sisters of the Sword in my local bookstore, I had never heard of the series before. I’m so glad I picked it up, and I’m more than happy to spread the word 🙂

    Kenda – This is the perfect series to read with a younger reader (I’m totally recommending these to my 11 yo sister)! I really hope you both get to enjoy these books – they get darker as the series goes on, and there is violence (but again, it’s similar to Harry Potter in that progression).

  • danielle
    February 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    ya lost me at exclamation marks. major turn off for me, despite my love of feudal Japan.

  • Chaptergeek
    February 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    This sounds like a series I should probably look into. Sounds great!

  • Li
    February 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I’ve just checked and my local library has a copy of the first book *utter glee*

    Thanks for the glowing rec!

  • natalie23
    February 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    According to Amazon.ca you can pre-order the fourth book now, and it’s released on 8 Aug 2011.

    http://www.amazon.ca/Sisters-Sword-4-Battle-Dawns/dp/006124404X

  • Rebecca
    February 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    The 4th book was written in English and scheduled to be published in the US and the UK by different publishers but both were cancelled. However a French translation of the 4th book was published just recently. Disappointing that they sold translation rights but neither English publisher finished publishing the series. 🙁

    If it never comes out in English I’m tempted to buy it in French and just type the last chapter into a computer translator program just to KNOW HOW IT ENDS. Because book 3 had such a cliffhanger. 🙁

  • Rebecca Herman
    September 14, 2011 at 1:50 am

    So a bit of good news, this series is being re-released in the UK starting in May 2012 under a different pseudonym (Maya Healey) and new book titles. Hopefully this will end with the final book FINALLY being published in English. Books 1 and 2 will be retitled Under the Cherry Blossoms and Shadows Across the Sun, Amazon UK doesn’t list 3 & 4 yet, probably because they won’t be out til later in the year.

  • Anonymous
    November 3, 2011 at 7:35 am

    😀 love the series

  • leham
    November 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    oh my gosh. I though I was the only one who fell in love. 😆 i am so glad i found this website. And I have been looking every where for book 4!

  • leham
    November 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    :mrgreen: I am confused when is it coming out in english,in USA? and when can I order / buy it for a cheap price? 😕

  • leham
    November 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    ummmmm….. anybody gonna anwser? 😛

  • leham
    November 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    hello?

  • leham
    November 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    ❓ ❓ ❓

  • Pokemon Lover
    December 4, 2011 at 9:43 am

    when is the final book coming out in the english verision??? i just finished reading the 3rd and it was even better than the last, though it did kinda make me want to slap some of the characters. i cant wait to read the next one, but you guys said that it wasnt published in english, only french.

    so when can i order/ buy it in the USA??? someone please anwser!!!!!
    Im dying of suspense here!! i have to know what happens!!!!!!!

  • Rebecca Herman
    December 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I don’t think it is coming out in the USA, but you should eventually be able to order it in English from England and have it shipped to the US. The series is being retitled, so far the titles are:

    Book 1: Under the Cherry Blossom (May 2012)
    Book 2: Shadows on the Sun (May 2012)
    Book 3: Between Heaven and Earth (September 2012)

    Because the release date for book 4 is so far off the date is not listed yet but the descriptions say it will be a 4 book series.

  • Pokemon Lover
    December 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I CANT WAIT TILL MAY!!!!!!!!
    im already waiting till next year for atleast 10 other books!!!
    i cant wait till may to find out if she kills her uncle or her uncle kills her!!!!! OOOHHHH THE DESPAIR!!!!!!

    i will now begin counting the days till may…

  • leham
    December 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    thanks.i am so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😯 😆 😀 😛 :mrgreen: 😉 ❗ ❗ ❗ 😀

  • Alice
    December 17, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I love the series my tween also loves it! 🙂

  • Jasmine Richards
    January 23, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Hi,

    I am the editor of this series of books in the UK and I’m delighted to say that Book 4 – Sword Against the Sky will be published in Feb 2013! So hold tight! If you want an early read Thea let me know!

  • Rebecca Herman
    January 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Yay! I am so happy that it will finally be published! I’d love to read it early for my blog too, but I dunno if you could send it to me since I love in the US. But I’m definitely going to order it online from a UK online bookstore!

  • leham
    January 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

    okay…. but i live in the us mss.richards. When can i get iit in a us book strore or library ❓ ❓ ❓

  • Freya
    March 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Umm it is already MARCH! I CAN”T FIND ANYTHING ABOUT A 4th BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am going crazy! Ilove this series! ARGH!!!!* Calming Down * So Could I have some info ASAP??????????? Cause I got to know when this is coming out!!!

  • Freya
    March 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I apologize I didn’t realizze you were speaking about UK. SORRY!!! But when is it coming out here in the USA?

  • damecharlie
    April 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

    You can get it here on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0192733133/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=

    I haven’t seen it in stores in the U.S. though so who knows when it’ll be released. Yay amazon!

  • Anonymous
    November 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I don’t understand you people. You compliment a book with a HORRIBLE ending to the series?

  • Charlie
    February 15, 2017 at 3:26 am

    Why can’t I find book no 4 ANYWHERE, in ANY of the versions??????

    I read them all 4 when I was smaller, in my native tongue, but they’re near impossible to track down (besides I now prefer reading Books in the original Language, if I can). Ugh, it’s so frustrating!

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