Book Review: Shadow Warrior

Chiyome knew she wanted to be a ninja.  Kōga, her home, had long been a training ground for them.  She trained for years until, finally, she passed the test and achieved her dream.  Then she found out that she was to be married to a high-ranking samurai, Moritoki Mochizuki, nephew of Shingen Takeda who was a powerful daimyo or local lord.  She was deeply saddened to find that her future as a ninja would have to be given up in order to help her family and village through the marriage, but knew it was her duty.

Chiyome training to be a ninja.

After the pair were married, their affection for each other grew.  Soon he, along with many others in the area, were sent off to war.  Mochizuki never returned.  Chiyome, disheartened by the options available to a widow in her circumstances, approached Shingen Takeda and convinced him to allow her to use her training as a ninja to benefit him.  She recruited girls who had been orphaned by the war and trained them in ninja skills in a secret school.  Chiyome and her girls continued to secretly work for him until his death in 1573, after which she disappeared.

One of Chiyome’s students studying the enemy’s army.

Although this is a biography, the author states in a section at the end called “Fact or Fiction” that there isn’t a lot known about Chiyome Mochizuki.  She might not even have existed, although she appears in so many stories that historians believe that she did.  To this day, Chiyome is a part of Japanese culture in video games, books, manga, and films.  Much of the narrative in this book is, although well researched, necessarily imagined.  This might be an excellent opportunity to talk to students about how we decide what is fact or fiction in history.

The book is very readable and a great example of narrative non-fiction.  There is a map, glossary of Japanese terms, list of sources, and further reading.   It’s recommended for anyone who is interested in ninja or Japanese culture as well as those who like to read about women who rebelled against their traditional role.

Shadow Warrior: Based on the true story of a fearless ninja and her network of female spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi. 9781554519651. 2017. Gr 4 – 8.


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