Title: The Keeper of Night Author: Kylie Lee Baker Genre: Fantasy, YA Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Death is her destiny.
Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.
When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.
The premise of this was excellent, and the writing was solid, too. The characters, however, didn’t really work for me. Ren herself was distant and cold—not human, I get it, but almost impossible to relate to—and I didn’t really care for her. Her brother just came across as weak 99.5% of the time. And Hiro, well, obviously he had secrets. Why on earth was Ren so surprised to find that out? The culture and mythology were rich and detailed, and I enjoyed that very much, but the characters just detracted so much for me.
Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Yumeko has been raised by monks in the Silent Winds temple. The isolation helps hide her half-kitsune nature—along with the training of the monks who want to suppress her mischievous personality. The temple exists to protect part of an ancient scroll fated to summon the great Kami Dragon. The last time the dragon was summoned, a thousand years of darkness followed. When the temple is destroyed, and the monks slain, Yumeko is left with the scroll fragment—and instructions to find a hidden temple.
But Yumeko isn’t the only one interested in the scroll. Kage Tatsumi, a samurai of the mysterious shadow clan, has been charged to find the scroll—and let no one stand in his way. Yumeko has no idea how to survive outside the temple and promises to take Kage to the scroll if he helps her find the temple. Kage has no idea she’s holding a piece of the scroll, and her deception could tear them apart—if his dark secret doesn’t destroy them both first.
I am fascinated by Japanese culture and mythology, and I really loved the Iron Fey series, so I was excited to read this. However, I found it pretty slow going until the last third of the book. The setting is fantastic and fascinating, but the plot seemed a bit predictable. Yumeko was very naïve—to be expected from her upbringing—and I actually liked that about her, although I think she needed some more common sense at times to counteract her lack of experience. A solid read.
Julie Kagawa is a New York Times-bestselling author. Shadow of the Fox is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review.)
Nana is a proud stray cat who doesn’t need an owner, but he doesn’t mind the crunchies nice Satoru puts out for him. When Nana is hit by a car, he knows Satoru is the only one who can help him. One visit to a vet and a healed broken leg later, and Nana decides staying with Satoru isn’t so bad.
Life is good until Satoru tries to give him away. But Nana is smart and thwarts the exchange. Satisfied, Nana thinks all is good—until Satoru tries to give him away again. Soon the two are traveling across the country in a silver van as Satoru visits scenes from his childhood—and soon Nana realizes there’s more going on that a cross-country vacation.
This is a charming, heartwarming book, and I ugly-cried at the end. True story. It’s hard to do a book written from an animal’s point-of-view well, and this one is so well done! Nana’s attitude—and his essential catness—is vividly drawn, and he’s one of the best narrators I’ve ever read.
Hiro Arikawa is an award-winning author. The Traveling Cat Chronicles is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)
Growing up, Keiko was a strange child. She didn’t react like everyone else—two students fighting, and everyone wants them to stop? Bashing one of them in the head is the solution, right?—and she never understands why her reactions are so wrong. So she learned to mimic everyone around her, creating a nice, normal persona with nice, normal reactions.
For 18 years now, she’s worked part-time at a convenience store. She’s never had a boyfriend. She has only a few friends—who don’t know she’s playing a part. Her family doesn’t understand her. But the routine of the convenience store gives her structure, and the employee handbook gives her rules to follow—she knows the part she must play to look like everyone else.
When she meets a fellow convenience store worker who also doesn’t seem to know how to react, she decides to take action to make everyone finally believe she’s normal once and for all. But will change be for the better?
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture since the first time I read Shogun. That’s why I picked this up. However, this book ended up being pretty meh for me. I like feeling a connection with the characters, and I just didn’t get a sense of connection at all. I felt sorry for Keiko, but she felt so distant that I couldn’t really care. (Part of this may be due to the novel being a translation, part to the fact that Keiko may be on the spectrum, so she just isn’t easy to relate to.)
Sayaka Murata is an award-winning Japanese writer. Convenience Store Woman is her newest translated work.
(Galley provided by Grove in exchange for an honest review.)