I’m back with a blog tour for a Young Adult Dark Fantasy, that met my expectations and left me reeling with the last 15% of the book, brought to you by TBR and Beyond Tours. I’ve read about Greek Underworld and it’s retelling in Lore Olympus, but this was my first time reading a full-length fiction on Japanese Underworld. The story was intriguing and left me with lots of thoughts, which I’ll be speaking about in this review.
About the Book
Title: The Keeper of Night • By: Kylie Lee Baker
Published by: Inkyard Press • On: 12 Oct 2021
Pace: Medium • Pages: 400 • Age: 17+
Series: The Keeper of Night #1 • Genre: Young Adult (Dark) Fantasy • Rating: 4 /5 ★
Book Links: Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Book Depository • Indigo • IndieBound
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.
ADD TO GOODREADS
I received an eARC of this book from Inkyard Press courtesy of TBR and Beyond Tours and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and ideas expressed here are my own.
You can check out more exciting posts and what other readers are telling about The Keeper of Night through this Tour Schedule.
Rep: Japanese-British (MC), Japanese (LI & SCs)
• Protagonist of an exquiste nightmare
Ren has been a pariah in the Reaper community because of her Japanese roots. She was bullied, shunned, and taunted by Stronger and High Reapers. Her father never acknowledged her or gave ears to her. There was only one who truly cared for her and that was her half-brother Neven. When things became too much to bear, she lost control of herself and gave into her anger and the fire burning in her veins, ruining any hopes of being a Reaper. She lands in big trouble for this and escapes to Japan, seeking her roots. All her expectations of finding a place to call home dwindles when they see her as a foreigner too. She has to complete 3 tasks given by the Goddess of Death herself to become a Shinigami. There begins her journey to seek acceptance and home.
• Descendents of darkness
We have three main characters in the book if we keep Death and Time aside.
Ren was the main character with identity issues. Her problem with identity stemmed from everyone around her telling her she didn’t belong to either race. It was a sensitive spot for her, and anyone who mentioned that she looked like a foreigner was on the receiving end of her wrath. She embraced her Japanese roots and wanted to be a Shinigami.
Ren never had many friends, but she had her brother. She loved him and could never leave him behind, so she took him with her when she left London. Their relationship started out strong but became rocky when things became challenging. Neven was sweet, curious, and understanding, but he was too soft to be a Reaper.
Reapers were not often associated with love or empathy, but Ren and Neven put that into question throughout the book. Neven’s empathy was in contrast to the image of Reapers or Shinigami. I liked the dilemma offered, but Neven’s constant bickering about saving souls annoyed me after a point. This also put a dent in their relationship because they refused to listen to each other and did what they liked. So, they didn’t turn out to be a stronger team than I expected.
We have another main character, Hiro. He is a fishing spirit who helps Ren and Neven in Yomi and is gued to them till the end. He tried his best to make Ren and Neven laugh. He didn’t have much backstory but was treated poorly because of his legs. Ren couldn’t read his intentions for voluntarily helping them, however she appreciated all the help she could get from someone who knew their way in Yomi.
• An oasis of light in the infinite darkness
Every culture has its myths about the underworld; I’m somewhat familiar with the western and Indian underworld but not the others.
Yomi, the realm of perpetual night, is the Japanese underworld. When Ren and Neven step into Yomi, they are greeted by darkness. Nothing to see but the sounds of water and wind greeting them. You can say that the book is set up in shadows and darkness. But as we navigate through Yomi, we see that it’s a parallel world with stalls and lanterns, eerily calm with the dead spirits around.
Like I mentioned on Wednesday, the first 20% of the book was about Reapers in London. They have a hierarchy but not a spectrum of inhabitants like the Yomi. They felt monotonous compared to the Shinigami and Yokai because they had curfew and targets to meet. Their somewhat corporate life made me skeptical about how the book might be, but I’m glad I kept going.
From the time Ren set foot in Japan, I felt the tone change and the atmosphere becoming darker. We meet Yokai (Japanese Spirits) at every juncture of the story, who lives up to the legend she read in books and a few who were friendly but weren’t mentioned in them.
They kept coming at her one after the other. Some were morbid and terrifying to read about, but she fought them with limited resources and came through unscathed, thanks to her Reaper body which could heal faster. Besides the time freeze, this was the only part where her Reaper heritage helped her and Neven. I expected Reapers to appear in the later parts of the novel, but they never showed up after the first act. But the constant flow of Yokai and Shinigami in the book added more weight to the story making up for the absence of the Reapers in the latter part of the novel.
• Creatures of death
Reading about death never gets old for me. I’m interested to see how authors interpret death as characters and concepts in their stories. Death was abstract and tangible in The Keeper of Night. Let me break it down for you. Death doesn’t appear as a character but is present on almost every page of the book. When Ren and Neven are facing a Yokai, they can feel the pull of Death around them. It’s a map to guide them to their next tasks and a reminder that Death is waiting for them.
All the creatures of Death, such as Reapers, Shinigami, other Yokai, were visages of Death. They were still fallible and weren’t eternal, a distinction that I appreciated in the book. We meet Datsue-ba, Jorgumo, Yuki Onna, Iso Onna, Tamamo No Mae, to name a few. Reading their backstory gave me the chills. Each one proved to be more daunting when Ren encountered them. I was familiar with Yuki Onna and Tamamo, but the others were new to me. The descriptions were on point, and Google helped me to visualize them accurately.
• Death and Time
Death and time play a huge role in this novel; they are practically all over the story. While the Shinigami could control light, Reapers could freeze or manipulate time. It was the best weapon in their arsenal, and Ren being half-Reaper, used it cleverly. Without time, she wouldn’t have achieved anything. She could pause Death by freezing time and escape any impending doom. This conflict between Death and time was brilliantly depicted in the book.
The Keeper of Night is an amalgamation of Fantasy and Japanese Folklore to give us a story straight out of nightmares and legends. This book was darker than I expected, and I loved every ghastly second of it. It would have been perfect if there was less telling and more showing in the book. We could have read the book without the romance; it was fast and seemed pointless to me, especially with how it turned out in the end.
Ren, Neven, and Hiro’s journey in the underworld was grim and haunting. The whole book felt like it was in a bleak filter with colors muted and sounds exaggerated to the extent where the coldness was palpable. If you’re looking to expand your Halloween TBR, please do me a favor and read this book because it is perfect for this season.
Death, which made us and guided us, was volatile and ever-hungry. Creatures born of Death could either serve it or be devoured by it.
TW // Graphic Violence, Assault, Abelism, Bullying, Racism, Cannibalism, Drowning imagery, Blood and Gore.
About the Author
Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her work is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, & Irish) as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she plays the cello, watches horror movies, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.
Have you read this book or is it on your TBR? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments.
“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
― Ray Cummings
this was already on my tbr but I’m going to have to bump it up because of your review since it sounds so good!! I love books that explore folklore and are dark and atmospheric, so this sounds like something I’ll really enjoy
[…] Despite me having problems with relationships in The Keeper of Night, I liked the plot. I reviewed it on Monday and have discussed what stood out for me in the book. You can check it out here. […]
How can you make this book sound any better than it already does! I haven’t had it added to my TBR yet, but after reading this fantastic review I’m going to fix that right away! 😍😍
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Aww… thank you, Sofii. 🤗 🧡Happy to know that you liked the review. And I think you might like this one. Hope you enjoy reading it!!
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loving the little titles you have on this review, i’m almot done with this book and oh my good it was such an amazing read, also that moodboard is just perfect!!
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Thank You. I use them instead of quotes because they might change after publication.☺️
IKR, this book was simply amazing and I’m happy that you enjoyed it as well.
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