Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Night Itself

When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana - an ancestral Japanese sword - out of its hiding place in her parent's attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.

The paralysing paranoia that descends on her before she gets to her friend's party is her first clue. The vivid and terrifying visions that nearly get her killed are a pretty good warning too.

The giant nine-tailed cat demon that comes after the sword and tries to rip her throat out? Overkill.

Seconds away from becoming kitty-food, Mio is saved by Shinobu, a mysterious warrior boy. But it's already too late. Mio has ruptured the veil between the mortal realm and the Underworld, and now the gods and monsters of ancient Japan stalk the streets of London, searching for her and the sword.

With the help of her best friend Jack, a fox spirit named Hikaru - and the devoted protection of the betwitchingly familiar Shinobu - Mio attempts to discover the true nature of the sword and its connection to the Yamato family. Because if she doesn't learn how to control the katana's incredible powers, she's in danger of being overwhelmed by them. And if she can't keep the sword safe from the terrible creatures who want it for their own, she'll lose not only her own life... but the love of a lifetime.

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
I've been a fan of Zoë Marriott for a while and was super excited to find her new book while perusing the shelves of the library.  I didn't even bother to check the description before grabbing it!  Marriott's previous work has been high fantasy, so the urban setting took me aback at first.  I got over my surprise quickly enough to enjoy it!  The plot moves really rapidly once the initial set up is over.  The combination of Japanese mythology overlaying modern London was a delight to read.  I should also admit that I find reading about various mythology I don't know much about fascinating.  I actually learned while reading!  I must admit that I love the whole magic sword bit (one of my all time favorite books is The Blue Sword), especially when said sword isn't exactly easy to deal with.  Throw in various animal spirits, good, evil, and indifferent, and I'm hooked.  The actual plot isn't that original (read: heroine must defeat evil monster by discovering new magical powers), but is executed in a wonderful way.  Marriott juxtaposes ancient and unfamiliar traditions atop of the expected and familiar.  It doesn't hurt that her writing is just wonderful and expressive, drawing you in with every new word.

I loved the characters ever so much.  There's so much sass that happens and it makes my little heart smile.  Mio has her moments of doing stupid things, but then who doesn't at 15?  Granted, most of those mistakes don't release evil ancient spirits, but welcome to literature. Mio manages to remain strong and resilient while freaking out like a normal human being.  Although I'm not a huge fan of the immediate relationship between Mio and Shinobu, Marriott posted some tidbits about their future on Goodreads and I'm excited to see what happens in the next book.  Shinobu is the least compelling and realistic character in the book.  He doesn't have a strong individual personality and I want to see it develop.  I think my favorite character might have to be Jack, though.  Sassy and fiercely loyal, she's a perfect counterpoint to Mio.  Plus, a constant stream of witty remarks always makes me a happier girl.  Her ability to believe in the seemingly impossible is an added bonus when dealing with legendary creatures.  I want to see where some of her relationships (not spoiling the fun!) head as well.

I'm still a huge fan of whatever Marriott does.  Although this represents a change for her, it worked out well.  I'd recommend this for people who enjoy urban fantasy, but are tired of reading about the same vampires/werewolves/faeries over and over.  I can't wait to see where the series is going next and will certainly pick up the next book when I get a chance!
book from library


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