Published by HarperTeen (1.28.2020)
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: From Publisher
Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her family ignores her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.
Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtesan with covert reasons of her own for getting involved.
As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer by the day, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?
If you know me, you know I am a HUGE sucker for Asian Fantasy. Especially if it’s Japanese. And there’s so few of them! This had everything I love about Japanese fantasy – oni, yokai, kitsune, miko, Shinto shrines, and plenty of glorious Japanese culture. (Which I am positively obsessed with.) That was definitely my favorite part of this book! It was super easy to picture everything – you know how some books tell you they’re in a certain country/place, but you just don’t feel it? In this one, you feel it. I never forgot once that we were in Japan while reading. The world felt authentic. I loved every bit of the world and culture!
However, I really didn’t care much for the characters. I felt rather apathetic to all of them except for Roji. I feel like she was the only human character besides O-bei with any personality? The cat, Oni-chan, had more personality than any of the others combined. The rest all blended together in my mind. I had to remind myself who the secondary characters were a couple of times to tell them apart. They were pretty interchangeable. I also didn’t care overly much for the two main characters – Kira and Shiro. Kira was an okay lead. She was determined, but she felt kind of generic. Shiro, on the other hand, had the personality of a wet rag. He was so BORING?! Which made me not care at all about the romance. I hated the romance, actually. I felt like it lacked a fundamental chemistry between the two characters that I desperately need in a book. They already knew each other, so there was literally no romantic development between them because it had basically already been established. But there was no backstory of it, either – he was just there, and eventually they kissed. It felt like there was no emotional evolution toward a relationship there, which made me feel very apathetic about it.
I had a pretty large disconnect emotionally in general. I didn’t care at all when things were supposed to be emotional. View Spoiler »When Kira’s grandpa died, I really didn’t feel anything, and that SHOULD have tugged on my heartstrings. I know what it’s like to lose a grandparent. Kira even went through the grieving process – which was well done, and realistic, but for some reason it didn’t strike a chord with me and it most definitely should have. I also didn’t bat an eyelash when O-bei died. « Hide Spoiler The emotion just wasn’t there for me.
I think the lack of connection was ultimately what brought this down for me. Between the world, culture, and action, (and Oni-chan, teehee) this could have easily been a 4.5 or 5 star read for me if I’d cared more about the characters and the romance. Actually, speaking of the romance – is it terrible that I shipped Kira with Roji instead?! Um, I loved Roji. She was the only character I cared about.
“Just let me get dressed, okay?”
Roji doesn’t move, keeping her arms crossed over her chest.
“Are you going to watch me change?”
She lifts a brow, grinning at me. “Would you like that, or…?”
Roji seems bored, picking at her fingernails. This is the first time I’ve seen her wearing armor since the day she and Shimada arrived. She catches me looking and makes a kissy face.
I SHIP THEM OKAY. I’m here for the banter, and they have WAY more chemistry than Shiro and Kira do together *shrugs*
Also, back to Oni-chan for a hot minute…I. LOVE. HIM. He’s a cat, of course. More specifically, a nekomata, or a cat yokai, who takes the form of a house cat but can transform to the size of a tiger. He’s absolutely fantastic and I was itching to draw him! One yellow eye with a scar through it, one blue eye, two tails with a spark of magical fire at each tip. I love sentient animal sidekicks and he was perfect! (Of course Jessi would attach herself to the cat character in the book, hmm.)
This book felt a LOT like Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, which I loved. Which, like this one, is basically Inuyasha in book form. But this one was lacking the banter that I absolutely adore (and crave), that both of the others I mentioned have in abundance. I think banter between more of the characters than just Roji and Kira would have really made this more enjoyable for me. I would still recommend it to fans of Japanese culture, though!
Writing style: 3/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5
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