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Released: October 12th 2021
Genre: Young Adult
Series: The Keeper of Night #1
“…if you like morally-grey fantasies with shadowed edges and horrific characters, look no further.”~ Under the Covers
That was absolute insanity. I think in a good way??
Ren is a Reaper, a British soul collector working for Ankou, the god of death. But she’s never belonged; unlike everyone around her, including her half-brother Neven, she is only half-Reaper. Her mother, whom she never knew, was Shinigami, a Japanese form of soul collector who can harness the power of light and shadow. For her whole two centuries of life, she has tried to remain invisible, aware that everything that makes her different also makes her a constant victim of taunts and leers and cruel treatment by her fellow Reapers. One night, however, when her tormentors go too far, Ren loses control and gravely injures them, forcing her to flee London with Neven. They travel to Japan, and Ren hopes she will finally have the respect and dignity a soul collector deserves, that she deserves, only to find that to the Shinigami, she is still half-Reaper. She vows to do anything to earn her title, so the Goddess of Death in Japan’s underworld sends her on a mission: to kill three of the most powerful spirits in Japan and restore the harmony between life and death. Once she sets out on her mission, with Death on her heels, she is forced to acknowledge the growing darkness within her and must decide if she will continue to fight it, or if she will embrace it, allowing it to consume her entirely. What will she do – and who is she willing to destroy – for Death’s power?
This book did exactly what it set out to do, and it did it well. Ren is an amazing example of a well-written morally grey character. She has incredibly understandable motives; for two centuries of life, not only has her job been to bring about Death, but she is constantly faced with the prospect of her own inferiority, simply because half of her lineage is from Japan. She was tormented her whole life (again, two whole centuries) and made to feel as though there was something wrong with her when she seems to be the only one who knows differently. Well, except for her half-brother, Neven, who I’ll talk about in a bit. But she’s grown up with practically no support system, along with an inability to die that often leads to gruesome torture. So it’s no wonder there’s a darkness inside her, feeding her insatiable desire to feel respected, valued, even feared as a bringer of death.
To make matters worse, she has always dreamed of Japan as a place where she could finally belong, yet upon entering she is only seen as half-British, or half-Reaper; she feels even more like she has nowhere to belong, so she resolves to do anything to become Shinigami in her desperation to dispel her loneliness. Her sadness, her hopelessness contrasting with her ruthless determination to become someone who can’t be hurt is so realistically developed. I hated to see her character crumble under these pressures and believe all she was capable of was evil, but it was so well-written I couldn’t help but empathize and hope her answers lied ahead.
I will say, the ending lost me a bit. I think it was the pacing along with her inevitable decision to embrace her morally-grey-ness; I personally avoid stories like this one in most cases because they make me sad and annoyed, and in this one, a certain plot twist I will not spoil made me so upset. I just prefer happy endings, and this one… ain’t really it. I wanted her to prevail over her darkness, but I knew it probably wouldn’t happen anyway.
I think the shining light for this book (for me, at least) was Neven. Sweet, sweet Neven. I am pretty convinced he’s an Enneagram 6 because I related to him so much. He is the only one who has ever supported and believed in Ren, and she really does him dirty; she likes to make things about her when he was overwhelmed because she had the same experience just worse 😑 SO annoying. Poor little Neven. For the sake of total honesty, Neven is the only reason I would want to read the sequel after that ending…
So all that to say, this book is really well-executed. I’m glad I read it because branching out is good, but morally-grey characters and kinda depressing endings are not my thing. HOWEVER, if they are your thing, you should totally pick this one up; it’s got a lot to offer in that department, and it reads so deliciously dark that you can’t help but keep reading chapter after chapter to determine if she will fight the darkness or succumb to it (even though she doesn’t quite consider it succumbing…). So if you like morally-grey fantasies with shadowed edges and horrific characters, look no further.
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