Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

The Keeper of Night (ARC Review) by Kylie Lee Baker

Bring on the morally grey characters and complicated endings, it’s fall! Thank you so much to Inkyard Press for my proof of The Keeper of Night! This is a YA fantasy with Japanese mythology, and I still enjoyed it quite a bit as an adult

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Keeper of Night
  • Series: The Keeper of Night #1
  • Author: Kylie Lee Baker
  • Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 10/12/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ all the stars for this dark fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.

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.

I liked the premise here, a young British Reaper is also half Japanese Shinigami, and she is bullied by the other Reapers. They don’t treat her much better in Japan and she just goes into this totally selfish spiral of darkness after being forced out of London. Her brother, Neven, would have followed her to the ends of the world and I was surprised by Ren’s lack of empathy towards him, how brutal!

I guess that’s what makes a good morally gray character, their self serving attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

It was cool to get a look at Japanese mythology and legends too, especially the underworld.  Baker does a great job with descriptive language, world building, and setting.  I felt like I was there, seeing the sights and smells, being crushed by darkness, wondering what would come next.  A very immersive read.

The magic system was pretty low key, the Reapers had a very cool time turning ability and a lot of the Japanese folklore involved abilities as well.  It was well described and once again I liked the concept of magic/legends/beings only being susceptible to the fatal influences of their own culture.

This is a great October read. I’m shocked that it’s a debut. Minus a few wordy forays into similes and purple prose that I thought hurt the flow – it was beautifully descriptive enough without going over the top those few times!  I thought overall it was a mature enough novel to enjoy as an adult.

There was some humor and good dialogue too, as well as a darker romance, but my favorite part was definitely the legends and stories.

Overall? This is an interesting, fast paced novel with good themes, morally questionable main characters, lovely language, and fresh mythology. You might cry though! A big ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me as an adult or for YA

Categories
Fantasy

Loves of Shadow and Power (book review) by Edith Pawlicki

Hi all! Sorry for my relative silence across media recently, I’m having a hard time getting anything done that’s not work and sleep related. Also I am on a Northeast road trip for the next two weeks but I’ll be back towards the end of the month

I finished Loves of Shadow and Power and really want to thank the author for the early copy! I love anything orange so I’m super happy to have these in print!

One fun note is that Edith will be joining me on the blog next week for the Sunday Brunch Series!

Here is my review for book one in the series!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Loves of Shadow and Power
  • Series: The Immortal Beings #2 (duology)
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/14/21
  • Length: 393
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍁🍁🍁🍁 for Asian based mythology and character driven adult fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

Are the worst demons within or without?

Finally in the Underworld, Jin must find the black peony – and survive the immortal creatures that hunger for her.

Xiao would prefer ravenous immortal creatures to his parents. Imprisoned and continuously drained of power, Xiao is spiralling into addiction and despair…

Nanami doesn’t know Xiao is drinking again. She just knows she needs to save the man she loves, even if it means getting help from an old foe. And if no one believes she can handle the powers she is challenging, well, Nanami has always defied expectations.

Speaking of expectations, Bai is shocked by the power that mortal worship grants the gods. Humbled by a confrontation with them, he must reinvent himself if he wants to claim the place next to Jin.

Separated by circumstance, the four friends must fight gods, monsters, and even themselves to come together again. But if they find each other, will they have changed too much to reunite?

I think the biggest difference in the second novel was the pacing and style.  She went for longer chapters and more breaks, with a mini cliffhanger style that I learned is called Xianxia.  It helped the pacing a lot and made the book hard to put down.

I went pretty deep into the world building in my review for book one.  The main addition to LoSaP was the Underworld, which I think was also my favorite part.  Meeting many of the Immortal Creatures was another high point since the author is skilled at creating lush visual images of places and animals.  I liked that Jin had to reason with them and trust her judgement as well as her power.

The characters learned (mostly) to love and trust in themselves in book one, and now they have to get over initial misconceptions and changing world views to see if they can truly love each other and embrace their roles as responsible deities.

Does deification change them? How do prayers even work? Where does this immense amount of power fit into the grand scheme of things?  Bai and Cheng had me laughing trying to figure these things out.

Theme wise there was self reflection, cause & effect, consequences, and lots of coming of age in this one.  Friendship and sacrifice, justice and judgement, plus natural vs found family and breaking ties

You all know I’m a sucker for a found family.  There was a bit of a morality nosedive towards the end that I would have really appreciated if I wasn’t half brain dead.

I just docked a star for some repetitive language and other small things, nothing serious at all.

Overall: a satisfying conclusion to the duology. Definitely recommend this series for fans of Asian based mythology & fantasy, lush descriptions, character driven coming of age stories and lore.

Stay tuned on the 19th for the author interview!

Categories
Fantasy Thrillers

Comfort Me With Apples (ARC Review) by Catherynne M. Valente

Thank you so much to Tordotcom for the ARC of Comfort Me With Apples!  I received the book for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own! 

The editorial letter states that the book is extremely hard to describe because of spoilers, and that we just have to read it. I completely agree with this! I definitely really enjoyed it and recommend for a short, fast paced fall read with tons of atmosphere

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Comfort Me With Apples
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Catherynne M. Valente
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom – 10/26/21
  • Length: 112 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for pretty much anyone, it crosses genres!

Here is the book blurb:

A terrifying new thriller from bestseller Catherynne M. Valente …

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…

But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?

Other than the book blurb, I don’t want to say too much about the plot itself because the whole thing leads up to the twist! The book lives for the twist.

Sophia is happy, living a perfect life in a perfect community called Arcadia Gardens. The book almost immediately starts introducing some fairy tale elements, but the reader has no idea what direction the story is going in. Is it a fairytale retelling? A fantasy? A new legend? Something out of folklore or mythology? A combination? Why is Sophia finding bones in the house and cracks in the facade of her existence?

With beautiful imagery, a mystery to solve, a general sense of unease, and a deeply atmospheric fairytale tone of voice, definitely you just have to read this one to find out exactly what is going on in Arcadia Gardens.  

It lists as a domestic thriller, fantasy, mythology.  I think there’s something in it for most readers, and it’s so short that it can be read in one sitting on a breezy October afternoon.

Thanks for reading!