All the Things

A blog by Holly Papa.

Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow

by | Jan 24, 2009 | Blog | 9 comments

sistersofthesword2I really liked this book!!! Britt over at Book Habitue chose it for our December’s book club. I personally have a penchant for story of the girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a soldier and the whole sister thing ranks high with me too. Maybe it was part of my secret desire when I was a kid to go and be a warrior like Mulan or Alana in The Song of the Lionness. What can I say I like the theme of girls can do just as good as boys.

The book take place in feudal Japan with world full of Samurai warriors. Two sisters Kimi and Hana watch the betrayal of a beloved uncle as he murders their father and brothers. Forced to flee in the middle of the night for their lives and hope that their mother and youngest brother escaped the carnage. In order to survive they disguise themselves as boys and so they can train as warriors at the Sumarai training school, which of course is forbidden. Girls just don’t do that.

Once I got some time away from the book though I had some questions about the way the girls were disguising themselves. The disguise was the way they tied their hair into a topknot and the side they tied their sash – girls on the left boys on the right. Would this really have worked? I’m not sure exactly how old the sisters are either and generally in this type of book their is some talk of tying one’s chest down to hide breasts and periods usually come up as part of it as well. Kimi takes on her cousin, who is an older student and a skilled fighter at the end of the book  so I would think they were at least in the early teens maybe older.

Maybe part of my questioning their ability to pass themselves  as boys particularly is that I am not very versed in Japanese culture and history . . . although tying ones chest down would be a universal. It’s possible that this would work in that culture better than I think. The book did make me want to learn more about the importance of Sumarai, tea ceromonies in Japan and Japanese history.

On the whole I really liked the book concerns aside. It’s a fun story and the fight scenes are awesome (except when people die). Kimi does kick butt when she fights her cousin.  I would like to read the other books in the series and maybe the whole disguise question will be resolved. Also there are lots of characters and loose ends so the author will have lots of options, which leads to another question. I have not been able to find out much about her. The only information I can find is the same on the book jacket.

Maya Snow once had an aikido teacher who told her that the best place for a tree to hide is in the forest. Maya decided that the best place for a writer to hide is among her own words.

So if anyone knows anymore please share because right know she is doing a good job hiding.

What other bloggers are saying:

Jessica  at Trainspotting “Sisters of the Sword is very fast moving, quick read. A lot of detail in things like costume, fighting style and other such culture. I enjoyed it.”

Sherry at Semicolon Sisters of the Sword definitely fills a niche: I’m not aware of many other middle grade fiction titles that deal so specifically with samurai and martial arts, especially not for girls. Yet, there are lots of kids who do martial arts, and lots of those nowadays are girls.

Pixiepalace The story this book tells is incredibly intriguing. The plot is complicated and many threads are left for the author to pick up in later books. What makes it so interesting is the political intrigue, various codes (bushi, noble and and likely others that are less well defined for us as readers, at least at this point), and the deceptions being overlaid on top of each other in varying ways.

The Reading Tub Yes, there are other books with the premise of girls disguising themselves to be boys. Generally, there is one heroine; here we have two. The author’s presentation is unique and she will have you racing into the book within the first few pages. What is particularly noteworthy is the sister relationship. As siblings, they have bonds and expectations that are stronger and run deeper than those having two characters who are like sisters … and it adds depth to the story.


  1. Britt

    Hey, I’m glad you liked it! Some thought it was awfully dark.
    I think a lot of their disguise also had to do with position– they were there as servants first which meant a lot less inspection. And I think there’s a distinct possibility that the clothing had enough to it to effectively hide whatever needed hiding. Plus, culturally, women would never do that. And most people only see what they expect to see.

    All I know about the author is that there is supposed to be a sequel coming out at some point.
    No, I didn’t know that when I picked the book. It just looked cool sitting on the library shelf 😉

    Kara Dalkey also has a couple of great books about girls in feudal Japan.

  2. Lenore

    I had a tea ceremony experience in Japan. I wasn’t expecting the tea to be quite so bitter, so I grimaced. They looked at me disaprovingly.

  3. caribookscoops

    Britt – well it has a lot of fighting in it so I can see why some people would think that it was dark. I liked it. You may be right that the style of clothing would have hidden a lot so it wasn’t a big deal. So that would be a cultural thing. Some clothing styles are easier to diguise oneself in.

    I just checked the second one comes out January 27th that’s in three days. It’s called Sisters of the Sword: Chasing the Secret. There are supposed to be more after that.

    Lenore – Hopefully they were a forgiving bunch. I know tea plays a large role in ceremonies and stuff, but I really am quite ignorant.

  4. hollybookscoops

    I had a roommate from Japan. She was very proper and dignified- in all ways, very clean as well. Did I mention she made the best cookies and was always willing to share them with me? I agree that a lot of deception is what you expect to see. Many of my oriental friends and roommates through the years have not been very large chested, so perhaps that was a non-issue, although it’s not something I would expect the author to completely disregard because I have known oriental friends who were bigger in that respect.

    I hope I’m not being disrespectful. There is also the issue of different societies with slightly different aging patterns. My roommates all looked younger than me and were all at least nine years older. So, maybe they reached menses later (I don’t know that’s not a very proper topic so it was never broached.) This could mean that all your questions will be addressed in future books.

    Thanks for the recommendation- I’ll have to look it up once I get through my big stack.

  5. Rachel

    I loved the first and second book! I cant wait to read the hird and fourth! i was so glad that there was 2 more books to read.hope to read more books by maya snow!!!

  6. beckaroo

    so i finished reding all three of the books again and i cant wait for the next one to come out but when i went to go check it out it wouldnt tell me so when someone finds out can you please tell me the sisters of the sword series are the best

  7. beckaroo

    oh and where do you look for the fourth book barnes and nobles dont have it so please tell me that to

  8. Patty DeMaria

    Maya Snow is really Helen Hart writing under a pseudonym. The fourth book is due out in June 2012 according to one website, but our materials selectors at the library tech center tell me it is going to be released in Britain much sooner. Keep your eyes on for that!

  9. Abigail Carcamo

    I really liked this book.



  1. Saturday Review of Books: January 24, 2009 at Semicolon - [...] Gold)120. Kittling: Books (Disco for the Departed)121. Girl Detective (King Richard II)122. caribookscoops (Sisters of the Sword)123. hollybookscoops (Toughest…

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