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.
The Keeper of NightFeatured
Ren takes the chance to flee, accompanied by Neven, heading to Japan, the country of Shinigami, where Ren hopes to find acceptance. Once she arrives and bargains with the goddess of death for a place in Yomi, the underworld, Ren is set to accomplish the impossible, destroying 3 supernatural Yokai that threaten the peace. With her brother and a Shinigami who has been rejected by his own countrymen for his disability, Ren is determined to earn her place and belong in Yomi.
What I loved: This was a really powerful story of the quest for belonging, self-acceptance, feeling like an outsider, and bullying. Ren is a compelling character who has striven for so long towards a goal that feels within her grasp that she will accomplish the impossible to make it happen. Her story brings the feeling of being biracial and the cruelty of others forward with the psychological and emotional consequences. Although there is much about the character that gives her multi-dimensionality, the plot moves relatively quickly, as there is much to be done along her path. She first must flee the home she has known, then travel to Japan, and complete a seemingly impossible task of hunting down 3 Yokai.
In addition to Ren herself, the Yokai are also intriguing and complex characters. Although we do not get to spend much time with them, I found them fascinating with mythology and histories that build the characters (and this world). The world-building is really top-notch and so fascinating throughout. I also appreciated the twists that I did not see coming - the ending parts left me reeling with so many surprises. I also appreciated the plotting that leads to these surprises without making them obvious - so the clues are there, but the pieces do not fall into place until the end - an excellent read! Additionally although major plots are wrapped up, there are new ones at the end that will definitely leave the reader very eager for the sequel!
The thought-provoking themes around family, sacrifice, love, revenge, bullying, and racial issues really make this a deeper read. In addition to those I discussed briefly above, I found the themes around love, both familial and romantic to be really intriguing. The ways in which it is defined, how it presents differently in individuals, and the claims of love vs actual love. Falling in love and being in love are also separate things, and the actions around consuming love raise questions.
Final verdict: With thought-provoking themes, masterful plotting, and compelling characters, THE KEEPER OF NIGHT is an intriguing and consuming YA fantasy that I would highly recommend for fans of THE INFINITY COURTS, BRING ME THEIR HEARTS, and TO KILL A KINGDOM.