The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1) by Kylie Lee Baker
Published by Inkyard Press / Harper Collins
Young Adult Fantasy
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Release Date : October 12th 2021
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
Death, didn’t need to find me because it was always there, in my blood and bones. I was made of Death.
ARC provided by the publisher Inkyard Press / Harper Collins through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review as part of blog tour organized by TBR and Beyond Tours
The Keeper of Night is an enticing dark fantasy story about identity and belonging that is perfect for this spooky season.
First and foremost I would like to thank TBR and Beyond Tours for choosing me as one of the many amazing book bloggers for The Keeper of Night tour from October 11th to October 17th. Thank you as well to the author and publisher Inkyard Press / Harper Collins for providing an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) as part of this blog tour.
Everywhere in the world was its own hell.
When I first looked for books that will be releasing in 2021 earlier this year I stumbled upon this book being mentioned on my Twitter timeline. The cover reveal and interview that CW from The Quiet Pond did got me hooked and Kylie did mention briefly about the premise which further peaked my interest. At first I really tried getting the ARC (Advance Readers Copy) from NetGalley but I got denied. Thankfully because of this blog tour I can read books that at first weren’t accessible to me so I’m very happy about it when I got to join in to promote it. The cover illustration of the book is done by Jessica Coppet and directed by Kathleen Oudit. It is so beautiful how every time I look at it I see new details! It’s a cover that definitely stands out from the rest.
The Keeper of Night is the first book to a dark young adult fantasy series based of Shinto mythology and Japanese folklore. In this debut Kylie Lee Baker explores themes about identity, family, love, power, death, and a sense of belonging. The story follows Ren Scarborough, a half Reaper and half Shinigami girl that has lived for centuries collecting souls of the dead in London. Being a biracial child Ren is often bullied and treated badly by her fellow Reapers. Even her own father and step mother doesn’t acknowledge her or help her when she is in need. One day when a confrontation with other London reapers went awry, Ren is forced to runaway from her home to avoid execution. Together with Ren’s half brother, Neven, they set out on a journey to Japan, the home land of her Shinigami heritage, to find her mother. But having family ties isn’t enough to be acknowledged as a Shinigami. Ren will need to prove herself to the leader of Yomi and embrace the light that she’s been suppressing all her life.
“Why am I the only one with no say in who I am?”
Kylie’s writing is enchantingly dark and atmospheric engulfing readers within the world that gradually becomes more haunting as the story goes. There is dread creeping slowly that follows not only the characters but also the reader. The writing emphasized the darkness of the story with it’s precise, descriptive, and nuanced world building. The setting provides an atmospheric depth to the story adding a layer of eeriness, especially when the characters visit Yomi, the underworld that is ruled by Izanami. Kylie created a world that is unique filled to brim with Shinto mythology and Japanese folklore that I find fascinating. The Yokai that are mentioned and the lore of Shinigami in the story are some of the few that I’ve known from watching animes that are loosely inspired by Shinto mythology and Japanese folklore such as, Bleach, Nurarihyon, and Shounen Onmyoji. I’ve seen plenty of animes with worlds based of this but I’ve never read a book before with this setting and magic system. This is what attracted me to The Keeper of Night in the first place and it is what makes this story all the much more meaningful. It is unique and a refreshing story in young adult fantasy that has never been done before in my opinion.
The gripe I have with the world is the magic system overall because it is vague and abstract specifically the Shinigami side. I wanted to know more about the magic as it plays a big part in the story. It is sad that the story offered only glimpses of the capabilities of being a Shinigami or Reaper. Personally, I had a hard time grasping the scenes when the Shinigami magic is used in the story. For the Reaper part it’s a simple concept as it is straightforward and easily understood. The magic is used mostly during combat and there are a lot of encounters between the party and other beings. During these encounters in my opinion the action scenes isn’t gritty enough for my taste. There’s always an easy solution to the fights that made me think the stakes were too easy. But that’s just me! I still enjoyed the story even though I had thoughts about the magic and action. If readers don’t mind it shouldn’t become a hindrance. Hopefully in the sequel these factors could improve because I do see a lot of potential for it to be more impactful.
The idea of being nothing and no one was so much scarier than dying.
As a reviewer characters are one of the many important factors that make or break a story for me. While reading The Keeper of Night there are three major characters that are introduced and they are : Ren, Neven, and Hiro. Kylie did a great job with the characterization as each character are distinct, well fleshed out, and have clear motivations. The character development in the story are gradual and full of intent that is in harmony with the plot as a whole. Though there are a few moments it felt slightly rushed and inconsistent I could easily overlook it because the way I see it the characterization overall is good. The brother and sister dynamic between Ren and Neven are believable and heart warming. It is reflected on page how strong and deep their bond is with each other. Neven acts as balancing agent and good conscience to Ren’s chaotic and cold demeanor. Hiro on the other hand is the character I have slight issues with as his characterization is weaker compared to Ren and Neven. Hiro is the mysterious fishing spirit that aids Ren and Neven on their quest. In my opinion, Hiro’s character could’ve been explored a bit more since it took me a while to warm up to him. Ren’s relationship with Hiro is slightly insta-lovey at first but after I marinated my thoughts I finally understood the intent behind their dynamics. The way Kylie portrayed the rose tinted glasses and blinding infatuation that plagued these characters is commendable. I like how their relationship turned out as it is vital in the climax of the story shifting the narrative which opens up the story in preparation for the sequel.
Kylie weaved in many important and relevant themes in The Keeper of Night but the most prominent theme is about identity. Kylie weaved it through her characters, specifically through Ren, that any reader who is biracial can relate to. Being a Chinese-Indonesian myself I see the similarities of experiences Ren goes through that are parallel to my own. The struggle and inner conflict the character goes through are relatable and reflects in real life situations. Ren’s constant battle against herself as she tries to embrace a new identity in Japan but still being viewed as foreigner that doesn’t belong resonated with me. These moments is what led to Ren’s development that pushed her to make the choices that is monumental to the story. Acceptance and a sense of belonging are important factors for Ren, it didn’t connect with me while I was reading but after thinking about it for a while I finally understood the stakes and Ren’s position within the over arching plot.
The names that she had fought for meant nothing in the loneliness of eternity.
Final thoughts, The Keeper of Night is a wonderful first book to a promising dark young adult series featuring intriguing world building, unique magic system, and strong characters that surprised me with it’s deep themes of identity and belonging. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as it is a fresh kind of young adult fantasy with intricate world building that is unique and heavily filled with culture. There aren’t many books like The Keeper of Night that is written by own voices authors of color that I know of. I’m glad I picked it up and I think everyone should too! If you’re looking for a book set in Japan with a world that is reminiscent of Animes such as Bleach, D Gray Man, or Demon Slayer I highly recommend for you to check out The Keeper of Night.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
This playlist is probably my most atmospheric of all the playlist I’ve made for other books. I tried looking for songs that reflect the dark and eerie tones of the story that anyone who wants to read the book while listening to something their experience could be amplified with this playlist. Most of the songs I chose are from the game soundtrack for Hollow Knight and Genshin Impact. The cinematic tones fits perfectly with The Keeper of Night and I hope this playlist can be enjoyed by future readers. As usual I will pick five songs from the playlist to give a brief explanation on why I picked them.
1. Soul Sanctum by Christopher Larkin
I picked this song to set the atmosphere of London and the Reaper’s headquarter. This song fits perfectly for that place and it also fits the narrative of the first few chapters of the story.
2. Inazuma by Yu Peng Chen, HOYO-Mix
This song I chose to convey the first few moments when Ren and Neven stepped on to Japan.
3. A Night Watch by Yu Peng Chen, HOYO-Mix
Another song from the Genshin Impact game soundtrack! I picked this one to reflect Yomi the place of endless darkness and death.
4. Bones by Palace
I picked this song for the two specific characters of The Keeper of Night : Ren and Hiro. I think this song fits them both as they both searched for their light in the dark. The chorus really reminded me of them how they both would cradle hellfire for the love they require that’s been denied from them.
Verse 1 : Shame To break from routine that we know Subtract all the days that we glow It's hard in the shade of my home Walls that you painted, my tomb Skin to my skin we found God But not in the face of the Lord The Lord Chorus : Feel it in my bones Caress the life through my veins I would cradle hellfire for the love I require Found the key to these chains
Verse 2 : Brave To take on the cards you've been dealt Breathe life into your mother's health Collecting the ink for your pen From blood that's been spilt yet again Thought I'd found my last future one But found it in ashes of the sun The sun
5. Nameless Song by Motoi Sakuraba
For the last song I wanted something that fits that satisfying ending and beginning of a new arc. I will not say much about the details to avoid spoilers but this song perfectly captures that ending for me.
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.
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Oh my gosh I LOVE the playlist!!! Especially the genshin soundtracks I’ve been listening to them a lot lately they’re fantastic! And great review too of course <3
gauri @ a book and chai
this review is so good lia!!! i agree with the great characters and the themes of being biracial. and the playlist!! i can’t wait to listen to it as i wait for the sequel <33
AHHH Thank you Gauri <3 Hope you like the playlist and I'm also looking forward to the sequel 🙂
tasya @ the literary huntress
This is such an eloquent review! I’ve yet to read it but your review is very detailed and helped me to adjust my expectations. Fantastic review!
Thank you Tasha! Hope you love the book as much as I do when you read it <3 And yay! Glad you like the playlist 🙂
Cherelle @ A Bolt out of the Book
Lia, I loved this review as much as I loved the book (which is a lot!!) Definitely The Keeper of NIght’s cover is a joy to look at, I agree especially on the writing which perfectly crafted the atmosphere… I loved the point that you mentioned about Hiro’s characterisation and relationship with Ren that built up towards the end, I was too a bit irked and distanced from him, but how his character played out in the grand scheme of things was impressive! So heartened to hear that you resonated with the theme of identity portrayed, it was indeed meaningful! Very excited for book 2, love the playlist too!! Thank you for the wonderfully written review <33
YAY! Hiro is very eerie but his character arc is well executed hahaha.. The themes translated really well.. I’m happy you enjoyed the book too and I’m also looking forward to what’s gonna happen next. Hope you enjoy the playlist <3
Awesome review Lia !!!!
Thank you Sahi beloved <3