Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott

Ancient Japanese gods and monsters are unleashed on modern-day London in this epic trilogy from an acclaimed fantasy writer. When Mio steals the family's katana - a priceless ancestral sword - from her parents' attic, she just wants to spice up a fancy-dress costume. But the katana is much more than some dusty antique and her actions unleash a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London. Soon Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, appears to protect Mio - and threatens to steal her heart. With the gods and monsters of Japanese myth stalking her and her friends, Mio realizes that if she cannot keep the sword safe, and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life...but the love of a lifetime.

I have a theory: The longer you follow the creation and publication of a book, the better the chance you'll snatch it up from your local bookstore (or Netgalley, whichever comes first.) It was true for me with "Cinder", and it definitely was the case with "The Night Itself".

Not that I wouldn't have read this book if I hadn't been following its inception. There's a near-constant deficit of non-white characters in YA, and the few books that attempt to bring a non-Western mythology either fail spectacularly, or don't give it enough credit. (I'd say there's a sad lack of action girls in YA, too, but that would be inaccurate. We have plenty of action girls in YA, but the people writing them seem to think that just making them physically strong is enough.)

"The Night Itself" is both a fantasy and a fish-out-of-water story that hits the sweet spot for both mythology and PNR fans. Actually, it reminded me a lot of those shows I used to watch on Fox Kids when I was little - you know, the ones with the magical portals or hidden alien spaceships or swords or any other object-transforms-ordinary-people's-lives. (Does the 20-year rule apply to books? Or is it more of a 10-year one?)

Speaking of these things, why is it that parents and grandparents and generally people with authority choose to wait until the latest members of their family hit legal adulthood before they go: "Oh, by the way, there's a super-dangerous object in our basement. It does X, Y, and Z. If you do this, it will bring about the fall of human civilization, so don't touch it or losing your phone privileges will be the least of your worries, mmmkay?" 

(Typical parents, always mistrusting their kids and making things difficult for everyone...)

I don't know what this says about me, but whenever an author throws in family drama and generational tension in the mix, I'm more interested in that than the actual plot. (Which is an interesting problem to have.) Luckily, it ties very well in this book - Mio is a British-born Japanese, and her father is very big about integrating, even if it means turning his back on his own cultural heritage. 

What can I say? This book delivers what it promises. I guess if I had to talk about any gripes I had with the story it would be: why did Shinobu have to have been with Mio in spirit since she was ten? Why? I mean, okay, there needed to be an in-text explanation as to why he could speak English and understand England and all, but... given that there's a romance set up between those two, I can't help but feel just a wee bit squicked out. (Would it have been so terrible if they had been just friends? Or at least if Mio could reciprocate the connection?)

But I guess that's all mileage. All in all, I'm definitely looking forward to more of this trilogy, and Zoe Marriott in general. 

Note: Image via Booklikes. Synopsis via Amazon.

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