cover image Little Sister

Little Sister

Kara Dalkey. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201392-9

Dalkey (Nightingale) dusts off some time-worn devices to concoct an ambitious and action-packed historical fantasy/adventure that borrows elements from Shinto beliefs, Buddhism, haiku poetry and the records of a 12th-century Japanese noble clan. Thirteen-year-old Mitsuko journeys through the realms of Japanese cosmology in a mystical, perilous search for her older sister. She tells her turbulent tale in retrospect, beginning with her privileged life as a member of the Japanese royal court. Militant warrior priests tear her world asunder: they burn the family home and murder her brother-in-law. Mitsuko's sister Amaiko, longing to be reunited with the soul of her slain husband, abandons her still-living body (now reduced to a trance-like state) for the netherworld. With the supernatural help of a Tengu, a shape-shifting demon more mischievous than evil, Mitsuko journeys to the Land of the Ancestors, the home of The Buddha Who Is Yet To Be, the cave of the Dragon King and several realms of hell (which are ""innumerable as the sins of mankind""). A solid, suspenseful mix of history and mythology. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)