NOTE: Obviously, the following study guides contain spoilers for the Seasons of the Sword books!
Chapter 1—“The Left-Hand Path” pp. 5-10
- Why does the narrator’s mother call her “Risuko?”
- Why is Risuko frightened of the old woman who comes looking for her in the woods?
- Who is this old woman and what does she want with Risuko?
- The old woman is traveling in a “palanquin”. What is a “palanquin?” You can use the dictionary.
Chapter 2—“Into the Circle” pp.11-16
- Why had Risuko’s mother sold her to Lady Chiyome?
- Risuko and her captor stop at an inn to give her new clothes and something to eat. There she meets three other children: Toumi, Aimaru, and Emi. What are your first impressions of each?
Chapter 3—“Flying” pp. 17-20
- Why does Risuko have such a violent reaction to Toumi?
- How does Risuko feel about her violent reaction?
- Who are the Little Brothers?
Chapter 4—“The Edge of the World” pp. 21-26
- What is the reason for Lady Chiyome’s party’s taking an alternative road?
- Who are the two opposing parties at war with each other?
Chapter 5—“The Mt. Fuji Inn” pp. 27-34
- How does Toumi once again anger Risuko?
- What skills does Lady Chiyome request Risuko to demonstrate?
- To what extent is Risuko able to display those skills successfully?
- What does Lady Chiyome ask Risuko to draw?
Chapter 6—“Tea and Cakes” pp.35-40
Describe the great battle that ensues and how the Little Brothers and Mieko save the day.
Chapter 7—“Wind” pp.41-44
- Why is Risuko disturbed to realize that they’d been saved by the Takeda cavalry?
- Who is the single casualty of the day?
- What hint do we get of Lady Chiyome’s plans for the three girls?
Chapter 8—“The Mountain” pp. 45-48
- Emi says about Mieko, “I can’t decide if she’s really nice or kind of scary.” What impression do you have of Mieko?
- Risuko comes to learn from Lt. Masugo that Lady Chiyome’s intention is to train her to be a miko. What is a miko?
Chapter 9—“Worth” pp.49-52
- What special skill does Risuko exhibit to Lt. Masugu?
- What important information does Risuko learn about her father from Lt. Masugu?
Chapter 10—“Dark Letter” pp.53-60
- How do Risuko and Toumi happen to fall into the hands of bandits?
- How does Risuko succeed in warning the rest of the party about the bandits?
Chapter 11—“The Full Moon pp. 61-64
The party finally arrives at their destination, where Lady Chiyome puts the three young people in the care of Fuyudori. What is unusual about Fuyudori?
Chapter 12—“Novices” pp. 65-70
- What is a “novice”? Use dictionary.
- What is an “initiate?” Use dictionary.
- What does Fuyudori reveal to the girls about why they’ve been brought to Mochuzuki?
- What kind of work will the three novices be doing under Kee Sun?
Chapter 13—“A Banquet” pp.71-76
- What is your impression of Kee Sun? Why?
- Why is there an empty seat saved in the place of honor beside Mieko?
Chapter 14—“A Squirrel on the Roof” pp.77-80
- What is the meaning of the word “succulent”? Use dictionary.
- For what kind of lesson are the girls scheduled the following day?
Chapter 15—“The Music Lesson” pp.81-86
- Why does Toumi get bean curds instead of eggs for breakfast?
- What instruments do the girls start learning to play at the music lesson?
Chapter 16—“Blades” pp.87-90
- How come Emi, the slowest long bean chopper, ends up with the largest finished pile?
- What are some of the exercises and activities that begin to occupy the three novices’ days?
Chapter 17—“Moon Time at Mochuzuki” pp.91-96
- What is meant by “Moon Time”? How do the women of the court observe it?
- What particular incident brings Risuko to tears and how does Lt. Masugu go about comforting her?
Chapter 18—“A Fly” pp. 97-100
- For what reason does Fuyudori wake Risuko in the middle of the night?
- Why is the mission dangerous?
- What does Risuko overhear?
Chapter 19—“In the Web” pp. 101-106
- How does Lady Chiyome discern that Risuko is eavesdropping?
- Why does Lady Chiyome support the Takeda forces in her hope for a united Japan?
- What question does Lady Chiyome leave unanswered for Risuko to solve?
Chapter 20—“Smelly Work” pp. 107-112
- What smelly work do the three girls learn to perform?
- What enormous task does Kee Sun set before them?
Chapter 21—“Lessons in Dance” pp113-118
- In what ways does the dance Mieko teaches differ from other dances?
- What is Risuko’s reaction to this dance lesson?
Chapter 22—“Feather Soup” pp.119-122
- While the girls have been working in the kitchen, what kind of work has Aimaru been doing?
Chapter 23—“Poppies in Winter” pp. 123-128
What lessons in the use of herb did you find most interesting? Why?
Chapter 24—“Visitors” pp.129-134
- On her first climb up the hemlock tree after the long snow, what does Risuko spy from the top?
- How does Risuku manage to save Lt. Masugu’s life?
Chapter 25—“To Roost” pp. 135-140
- What new task does Lady Chiyome demand of the novices, and how does Risuko react to it?
- For what reason does a very angry Lady Chiyome assemble the entire group?
Chapter 26—“Climbing the Walls” pp. 141-144
- Trying to track down the source of a strange sound outside, whom does Risuko discover in conversation in the Retreat?
- How would you describe the conversation between the two?
- What herb does Risuko discover missing in the kitchen?
Chapter 27—“Poppies in Winter” pp. 144-148
- What does Risuko dream and what does she learn from it?
Chapter 28—“Broken Dishes” pp. 149-154
- What kind of harm has befallen Lt. Masugu?
- Whom does Lady Chiyome send to attend to him?
Chapter 29—“Proper Duty” pp. pp. 155-160
- What does Risuko discover about the relationship between Mieko and Lt. Masugu?
- Of what act do Mieko and Lady Chiyome suspect Risuko?
Chapter 30—“Battle of White and Scarlet” pp. 161-166
- What surprising object does Risuko discover in the guest house?
- How does Lady Chiyome deduce that Risuko was not the spy who’d been searching her rooms?
- What startling news about her father does Lady Chiyome reveal to Risuko?
Chapter 31—“Taking Up the Blade” pp.167-176
- Why does Risuko resist taking up the sword?
- Why do the sword positions in her first lesson come so naturally to Risuko?
Chapter 32—“Chicken Soup” pp.177-182
- On what new mission does Lt. Masugu send Risuko?
- What is the cause of the bitter undertaste in the chicken soup?
Chapter 33—“Smoke and Stone” pp.183-188
- What effect does the Corydalis have on everyone who ate the chicken soup?
- What does Risuko find hidden in the roof chimney?
Chapter 34—“Falling Fast” pp. 189-198
- Why has Fuyudori turned on Lady Chiyome and her people?
- What does Fuyudori reveal to Risuko about Lt. Masugu’s identity?
- How does Risuko escape Fuyudori’s vengeance?
Epilogue—“On the Ground”
- What does the prized scroll turn out to reveal to the four young people?
Chapter 1—”The Rising Wave” pp. 3-8
- What part of her kunoichi training does Risuko find herself unable to do? Why?
- What precious possession does Lt. Masugu give her before he leaves? Why?
Chapter 2—”Guests” pp. 9-18
- Why do the Full Moon initiates stop their defense against what appears to be the Matsudaira invading army?
- What learned skill is Risuko able to demonstrate with Lt. Masugu’s sword?
- What does Lady Chiyome caution the Full Moon residents to hide from the Takeda guests?
Chapter 3—”Wild Ginger” pp. 19-24
- How is Risuko separated from Lt. Masugo’s sword?
Chapter 4—”Shadow of the Moon” pp. 25-30
- For what purpose does Risuko sneak into the kitchen at night?
- What story does Mieko tell Risuko about the history of the sword?
- What promise does Mieko make to Risuko?
Chapter 5—”Jolalo-san” pp. 31-36
- All the residents are called in to help serve the morning meal to the guests, where Risuko is introduced to a boy named Jolalo. From what country does Jolalo come?
Chapter 6—”The Mountain at the Full Moon” pp. 37-44
- Why did Risuko’s mother come to nickname her Squirrel?
- What challenge does her teacher, Mitsuke, set for Risuko in this chapter?
- When Risuko shelters from the rain in a cave, what does she discover?
Chapter 7—”Startled” pp. 45-52
- Why do the residents find Mai’s behavior with the guests unacceptable?
- What mistake does Mai make while serving Lord Takeda?
- Mai’s behavior also causes what serious confrontation?
Chapter 8—”The Lesson” pp. 53-60
- What skill does Lady Chiyome have Mieko and Risuko demonstrate for the Takeda troops?
Chapter 9—”The Rising Sun” pp. 61-66
- What urgent news does Risuko deliver to Lord Takeda?
- How does Risuko come to the conclusion that Lt. Torimasu could not have committed suicide?
Chapter 10—”A Boiling Pot” pp. 67-72
- What secret of Aimaru’s does Risuko discover?
- What does Aimaru claim to have seen in the storeroom that is no longer there?
Chapter 11—”Numbers” pp. 73-76
- Although Aimaru can’t read, what skill does he demonstrate for Lady Chiyome?
- What name was at the top of the missing scroll?
Chapter 12—”The Torī Arch” pp. 77-82
- Why does Risuko caution Jolalo to remove his chopsticks from the rice bowl?
- What important piece of evidence about how the murderer would have entered does Risuko share with Lord Takeda?
Chapter 13—”Guards” pp. 83-90
- Why does one of the two drunk sleeping guards take his own life? What has happened to the other guard?
- What does Lady Chiyome discover about the wine that the sleeping guards had drunk?
Chapter 14—”Fathers” pp. 91-100
- The three young initiates (Risuko, Toumi, and Emi) go off on what special mission?
- What story about the three girls’ fathers comes to light on their mission?
- Who do the girls discover is following them to the waterfall?
Chapter 15—”The Waterfall” pp. 101-106
- Why does Risuko venture behind the waterfall?
- What does she find there?
Chapter 16—”Out of the Woods” pp. 107-114
- What new danger does the trio spot in the woods?
- What new story does Risuko explain to the other girls about their fathers?
Chapter 17—”Pretty” pp. 115-122
- Why did Lady Chiyome send the initiates to the Takeda camp?
- What does the search party discover in the murdered Lt. Torimasu’s tent?
Chapter 18—”Connivers” pp. 123-130
- What does Lady Chiyome suggest the numbers found in Lt. Torimasu’s room really designate?
- What does Aimaru explain to the girls about “a dead drop”?
Chapter 19—”The Departed” pp. 131-136
- For what purpose is Risuko enlisted to play the samisen?
- How did Sachi and Mieko separate the two groups of soldiers?
Chapter 20—”Night Lightning” pp. 137-144
- Mieko instructs Risuko to follow Shino, who runs out of the camp. Where does Risuko find her?
- What happens when Jolalo sneaks up on Risuko during her search?
Chapter 21—”The Bear” pp. 145-154
- How does Risuko happen to find herself in the cave with the ogre again?
- What does the ogre turn out to be?
- Who does Risuko discover in the cave?
- How does Kobayashi explain leaving his post?
Chapter 22—”Samurai Orphans” pp. 155-160
- Why does Risuko ask the Matsudaira soldiers what will happen if Kobayashi turns himself in?
- Why is Mai angry when Risuko brings her dinner?
- What does Risuko see Mai drawing?
Chapter 23—”Smoke and Flame” pp. 161-168
- What does Risuko come to believe about the monk officiating over the funerals? Why?
- What does Risuko discover when she goes to fetch Mai from the Retreat?
Chapter 24—”Desecration” pp. 169-176
- Why does the cook Torai appear to be guilty of Mai’s murder? Do you think he is guilty?
- What do the lords agree to do about the murder?
Chapter 25—”White Sand, White Snow” pp. 177-186
- Which of the Full Moon initiates is asked to testify at the murder trial in the Great Hall?
- Why is this testimony important?
Chapter 26—”Blank, Blue Sky” pp. 187-194
- How does Kobayashi’s return to the camp begin to unravel the mystery of the murders?
- What information is Risuko able to give that points the finger at the guilty man?
Chapter 27—”Ghost Blood” pp. 195-200
- How does Lord Matsudaira punish Kobayashi for deserting his post?
- How does Kobayashi respond to his punishment?
- What does Captain Tokimatsu discover about the women of the Full Moon?
- What is his response to this discovery?
Chapter 28—”The Ogre” pp. 201-206
- How does Risuko come to understand how Mai met her death?
- Why did Kumo knock out Jolalo?
- What was Kumo’s motive in the two killings?
Epilogue—”Heading Off” pp. 207-210
- On what new mission are the three young initiates sent by Lady Chiyome at the end of the book?