Searching for the wandering soul of her beloved sister, Mitsuko enlists the aid of a host of supernatural friends in this colorful fantasy, set in 12th-century Japan. As a member of an eminent clan, Mitsuko has spent her first 13 years in a courtly, constricted world. When part of her family is set upon, first by warrior monks who leave her new brother-in-law Yugiri dead and his wife (her sister Amaiko) dazed and numb, then by an ambitious local lord with marriageable sons, Mitsuko finds the courage to flee into the forest--and to accept the company of Goranu, a mischievous, immortal shapechanger. Sure that Amaiko's soul has followed Yugiri's into the land of the dead, she sets out to reclaim it, sped on her way by several Buddhist and Shinto spirits, some kind, some dangerous. Although elaborate courtesies, a round of poetry parties, and stylized conversation slow the beginning, Mitsuko will win readers over with her determination and the forthright way she faces the powers of heaven and hell. Less intense than Katharine Paterson's Of Nightingales That Weep (1974), and even whimsical at times, the story and its tricks, chases, sudden changes of scene, and its large cast of humans and nonhumans, will appeal to fans of Lensey Namioka's samurai tales. The account ends with a poignant, romantic twist: Goranu offers to end his life so he can come back as a mortal and marry her. A readable, engagingly semiserious adventure.