Series: The Keeper of Night #1
Published by Harlequin Australia
Published on 27 October 2021
Genres: Action & Adventure, Death & Dying, Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Young Adult
Source: HarlequinTeen Australia, HarperCollins Australia
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I am too dangerous to let live any longer.
It is written in the Book of Ankou, decreed by the High Reaper himself.
Death will come to find me...but I will no longer be there.
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 due to her mysterious mother and even more mysterious Shinigami powers, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.
When her failure to control her developing Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan in search of 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 Yomi, 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. With help from only her brother and a new ally who might be less than trustworthy, Ren will learn how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.
I received a copy of this book from HarlequinTeen Australia, HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I really liked this book by debut author Kylie Lee Baker. I’m not sure if it’s #ownvoices but I feel like it might be.
Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough must complete three tasks set to her by the Japanese goddess of death, after escaping England for using her forbidden power against her enemies.
I quite liked the writing in this. I liked how the author was trying to present Ren as a ruthless villain. I’m not quite sure it hit the mark all the time though, since Ren was pretty sure she wasn’t a murderer, just a soul collector of the dead. It can be really hard to write a likeable villain, and I feel like the author maybe wasn’t as prepared to let Ren go there because of that struggle with likeability. Yes, Ren was ruthless on some occasions, but never maliciously. She didn’t torture people for shits and giggles. I know that’s a really high bar to set for villainy, but the actual bad guys in this novel wanted to stab Ren’s eye out or murder her, so I feel like they were obviously villains whereas Ren was not. She collected souls, and that didn’t make her a villain. She had bad thoughts about people, but didn’t act on them. That doesn’t make her a villain. In fact, she was reined in pretty severely for the love of her half-brother, so I feel like she never really got to soak in all her villainy.
Ren was, however, completely capable of every challenge set to her. While I liked the writing and the worldbuilding, especially the use of folklore littered throughout and the imaginative descriptions of the Underworld, and stark differences in culture between the British Reapers and the Japanese Shinigami, Ren didn’t exactly face any challenges in this book. She set a goal, planned for it, and she overcame the challenges with relative ease. She was so strong and capable and had the power to stop time, so she was really all-powerful.
I mentioned in one of my updates that it was like watching a Olympic hurdler. I was rooting for Ren, and watching her glide over these hurdles effortlessly showed how tough and capable she was. However, I feel like there was no real challenge, especially since she had a lot of help from another character to complete her tasks. She literally never stumbled over a single hurdle, let alone crashed through one entirely and I felt it would have been a better story if she had to overcome some challenges rather than soar through them. She literally was told where to find one of her tasks, travelled there, almost instantly found what she needed and actioned it. I would have liked seeing her struggle a bit more. It left no room for character growth. She’s the same petulant, selfish creature she was at the start and the end of the book, just has simply grown in power.
As for the romance, well it was a bit strange. The love interest became way too invested in Ren for what I could see as literally no reason. She didn’t overcome anything, she didn’t grow as a character, she was already super powerful and super capable. He knew her for like a week and would burn the world for her. Why? She was hypnotically drawn to him because he was pretty and everything she ever wanted (namely Japanese), so I get her obsession. I didn’t get his, for the longest time. I am really glad to say that upon completing the book, I totally get it and I feel like it fits the plot and makes sense, so yay.
Overall although I enjoyed this book, and it’s always fun reading from a villain’s perspective, I am not in a rush to read the sequel. However, I do feel that this was a good debut and the author will only get better with experience.