Mitsuko Fujiwara, or Little Puddle as she is known, is the fourth daughter of a minor lord in Japan of the 12th century. When she is thirteen, her home is burned, her family kidnapped, her brother-in-law slain, and her favorite older sister struck with a mysterious illness. Desperate to save her sister and her family, Little Puddle joins forces with a tengu, a shape-shifter, and journeys across Japan and all of its mythology, learning about her true self in the process.
I just didn’t like Little Sister that much. I found Mitsuko whiny, her quest boring, the mythological beings of all sorts confusing, and the conclusion of the book dull. The author didn’t properly explain the various gods and creatures Mitsuko confronts, so I was left wondering what on earth they were. The “quest” was rushed, not particularly well executed, and had too many pointless dead ends. Maybe I would have enjoyed the story a bit more if I were more familiar with Japanese mythology, but I doubt it.
The plot has several different branches, but Mitsuko’s main quest was the journey to find her brother-in-law’s soul, which had apparently gone missing and taken Mitsuko’s sister’s soul with it. How on earth she jumped to this conclusion I still don’t understand. Well, she journeys around aimlessly with her tengu friend Goranu, meeting deities that take strong likings to her for no apparent reason but despite all their power are absolutely useless in her quest. Overall, the ending was easy to predict. Most of Mitsuko’s actions (and those of most of the characters, actually) were never really explained.
There was nothing at all interesting about Mitsuko. She was the stereotypical rebellious-princess figure, and wrapping her in a kimono didn’t make her any more original. She was extremely flat and boring. Most of the other characters in the story followed a similar trend. The “trickster” tengu wasn’t particularly clever or funny. The side characters, when they were characterized at all, were given uninteresting descriptions and voices that all sounded alike. I doubt I’ll be able to recall a single character from Little Sister in a month from now; they were simply uninspired.
The descriptions were bland, when Dalkey bothered to describe anything. The character’s voices all sounded alike. The narrator was unoriginal and unexciting. Overall, the writing was just boring.
Overall: one star. Don’t waste your time.