Publisher: Harlequin Teen
One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Let me get this out now, I fucking loved this book. Based on the reviews I’d read on NetGalley, I shouldn’t have liked it nearly as much as I did, but I can tell you exactly why. 1) The mindset I had going into this. I read this in one sitting on a Friday night, after an incredibly stressful week, so my attitude going in was simply hoping for a good time. I wasn’t in the mood to be overly critical like I sometimes am. 2) This book is ANIME AS FUCK. And as the girl who was president of her high school’s anime club, I was here for it.
How is it like anime, you ask? Well let me tell you. We have our main female character Yumeko, a bubbly air-headed kitsune, who’s tasked finding a hidden shrine while keeping a secret map safe from bad guys. Then we’ve got Tatsumi, the edgy angsty main male character who’s half possessed by a demon sword. As the first book in the trilogy, this is the party building arc of the story. As our MCs journey, they encounter along the way: the drunken disgraced samurai who doubles as comic relief, the aloof nobleman swordsman (WHO HAS WHITE HAIR), and the angry shrine maiden and her shrine guardian familiars. Is this starting to sound familiar yet? There’s even the we’re-not-going-to-let-you-do-this-alone-partly-because-we-have-our-own-reasons-but-also-friendship speech right before they fight the Big Bed Evil Guy! This is probably the first book I’ve read where I managed to plot out an entire 13 episode season as I read.
Of course, this book giving me a massive nostalgia trip is not the only reason why I liked it. Kagawa’s writing has this magical atmosphere to it. In between the action and the angst, there are these moments of peace where the characters take a moment to rest and appreciate the beauty of their surroundings. Kagawa writes those moments in a way I can only describe as Ghibli-esque. There are scenes that have that beautiful, calming feel that seems straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie, like when Yumeko first goes to explore the forest around her, or when Yumeko and Tatsumi encounter the Kodoma.
Another aspect I loved about this book was how unapologetically Japanese it is. The setting really invokes a feeling of feudal Japan that simply sucked me into the world. Kagawa also uses a fair amount of Japanese in the book, between describing creatures and spirits, to phrases and exclamations, and even the honorifics. Personally, I really appreciated that as those words for used, she didn’t take the time to also define them. If the reader doesn’t know what they mean, I found them pretty easy to decipher with context clues. If they’re still lost, there’s a glossary included in the back of the book.
Despite all my gushing, I recognize that this book isn’t perfect. For one, the main villain is very one-dimensional. We don’t get a lot of their motivation beyond attempting to find this map to do villainy things because villain. It’s implied that there’s other characters in the shadows that haven’t made an appearance, but so far the villain hasn’t been all that interesting. The characters themselves are relatively tropey. While that isn’t necessarily a bag thing, it’s very easy to give a five word description and the reader would more or less know how the character will act. There are a couple scenes that would probably imply a budding romance in any other book, but I honestly think Yumeko’s too much of an airhead to realize what’s going on.
Overall, I give this book a 5/5. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Do I love it regardless. Absolutely! It’s been a long long time since I’ve audibly cheered characters on as I read. I can’t wait for the sequel (and the anime adaption).
/r/Fantasy 2018 Bingo Squares:
- Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting
- Subgenre: Historical Fantasy/Alternate History
- Novel Published in 2018
- Novel Featuring a Mountain Setting
- Novel Featuring a God as a Character