Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper Teen / Quill Tree Books)
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Available Through The Book Depository: Seven Deadly Shadows
Cover Design: Sam Webber (artist), Erin Fitzsimmons (designer)
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her family ignores her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.
Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtesan with covert reasons of her own for getting involved.
As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer by the day, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Seven Deadly Shadows is a character-driven contemporary fantasy that follows Kira, whose on a quest to save her family’s shrine and possibly the world, by finding 7 death gods and reconstructing an ancient sword to fight a demon king! Featuring Shinto and Japanese culture, this unique book is filled with action, adventure, and a compelling story making it a must read!
Its a fact that amazing books can get swept under the radar and I think Seven Deadly Shadows is one of them. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about a priestess in training joined by her half-kitsune best friend embarking on a journey to recruit death gods to defeat a demon lord and save the world?
Out of all her family members, Kira is the one who feels the most dedicated to look after the Shinto shrine alongside her grandfather and best friend Shiro. Her family also has the ability to see demon monsters or spirits called yokai.
Kira’s most at home whenever she’s at the shrine, learning about the glamours or tradition with her grandfather, and vows to carry on the legacy her other brother Ichigo and parents ignore (with only her little sister Ami showing the slightest bit of interest). However, one day the shrine is attacked and her beloved grandfather is murdered.
After learning the shrine is rumored to carry the pieces of a legendary sword bestowed by the sun goddess Amaterasu, she’s left with no other option but to prepare for a looming battle with a demon lord, set on bringing chaos to the world.
She travels with Shiro across Kyoto and Tokyo, to enlist the help of shinigami to aid in her quest, while also trying to keep up with her school work at the prestigious Kōgakkan high school! The way this novel handled Kira’s dual world was phenomenally done!
There’s so much depth to her journey as she views and tries to balance these 2 parts of her life, the everyday and the supernatural. The magic of this world seamlessly blends in with the reality and day-to-day of Japan.
This is such a great standalone because, you get such a solid grasp as to who the characters are and their stories. The dynamics between the characters are all interesting and compelling, overall what makes them great is how their personalities are elevated through Kira’s pov. For example, the brother dynamics between Shiro and Ronin, or Kira and Ichigo all have this unresolved/unsaid conflict that show the rift between family. Even Lady Katayama (O-bei) whose Shiro’s adopted mother, is such a powerful force on the page, yet still retains an air of mystery as Kira’s trying to continue her quest.
However, the friendship (and possible romance) between Shiro and Kira was one of my favorites too, because no matter what he’s there to offer her help and join her in any way that he can (even tagging along at her school). There’s this undeniable trust between them and Shiro continuously supports Kira in her cause. There’s always a sweet and supportive moment of them together on the page.
As for the plot, while its a bit slow its always surprising. Kira is traveling to real life locations (parks, cities) even spirit worlds, to seek out Shinigami who are hidden by glamour. I also don’t know much about Torii gates, but I fee like it represented this shift from our world to the sacred (shrine), supernatural settings and I appreciated how they were woven into the story.
You see Kira’s internal struggle as she feels out of place in our real world and yet is still trying to find her footing in the world of the yokai and shinigami. Its heartbreaking, because she has to navigate this world without her grandfather, who she loved so much and who also supported/helped her in the journey to become a priestess. Its very much a personal journey and one she’s willing to take risks for! However, she finds support through Shiro, Oni-chan, and the shinigami who allow her to better understand this world she feels the most at home to.
The build-up of those last few chapters are some of my favorite and enjoyed seeing how it all came together. Learning how Amaterasu’s sword, the spirits, and Kira’s own personal journey all wove to create an epic conclusion always offered something new to explore throughout the story and I loved that.
Alameda and Maetani’s writing styles flowed perfectly together and I would be thrilled to read more YA books co-authored by them in the future. Also, what makes it even more amazing is that its co-written two female authors of color, Latine/Latina and #ownvoices Japanese writers! According to the Author’s Note, they did travel to Japan and did a lot of research, which you can tell through the writing! While it does feel like there’s some moments of repetition and cliche metaphors, overall the writing was so good. Its descriptive and you could sense the magic flowing throughout the world! This atmospheric urban fantasy, creates such vivid pictures in your mind about the setting, weather, that you feel transported to Japan. Perhaps its just me, but there’s also the sense of a chilling, horror woven in which makes the atmosphere of the book even more unique!
There’s lots of beautiful descriptions and imagery that I felt rooted in the world from page 1. The atmosphere of the Fujikawa shrine evokes a deep sense of connection to its lore and history that bring not only that, but so many other elements of the world to life.
Shadows was as brilliant as it was in my opinion, due to its 1st person perspective. You’re given this look into Kira’s journey to become more confident and gain that inner strength. She’s ready to take all the risks and defend her family’s shrine, whether it means traveling to spirit worlds, unlocking family mysteries, facing yokai, or just trying to keep up with her classes! There’s a conflict she feels being stuck between 2 worlds and whether its the themes, character dynamics, or gravity to her mission, Kira as a character is authentic, you feel grounded and connected to her story because of how she comes to life.
Important themes your presented with throughout the book are loyalty, honor, and family. When Kira’s grandfather is killed, she carries on his work at the shrine, because she showed her how important it was. Her goal then is to not only honor him, but preserve his legacy by saving the world. Their bond was incredibly strong and you see how it motivates her to take action. In contrast, you see how there’s a strain on her relationship with her family who are focused on their reputation and image, that they really don’t understand Kira’s dedication to the shrine.
My only issue which made my rating a 4 was that because we know a final battle is coming, the pacing can feel rather slow. Being almost a little over 350 pages, we know what the end goal is so it can feel like the shinigami quest takes its time to progress. There’s lots of traveling, training, and preparation, while its lots of fun, you can see the pacing suffers at times.
Also, personally there’s a character thread I wasn’t particularly a fan of, which was for Kiku (a shinigami/ogre). *Spoilers ahead, but he shows up early on to talk to Kira and Shiro about the sword, then disappears only to show up at the end, which is where we get all this backstory. I just felt his story was kind of unnecessary and out of place with all the other shinigami and everything else that was already going on, in my opinion.
Overall though, when the book finally wrapped up I was sad because I felt so connected to Kira and her world. I wouldn’t mind more future books with her at the shrine! This is a book that is filled with so much depth and love, its fallen under the radar and more people NEED to read it!
Seven Deadly Shadows is a quiet, underrated standalone novel that will leave you wanting more! Driven by its dynamic cast, and compelling story, Kira’s tale is one of honor, growth, and finding one’s own path! The atmospheric world, writing, and immersive plot through its exploration of Japanese culture, makes Alameda and Maetani’s urban fantasy a must-read!
Today’s review will also feature a fellow book blogger shout-out! 📚🎉
I recommend Amanda from MetalPhantasmRead’s Review!It’s no surprise I adored Kira and her journey, so if your looking for a review that gives you all those little details about it, Amanda’s review one to check out! ✨
*Also, this month I’m celebrating 5 years on the blog and have a Q&A Tweet if anyone would like to ask any bookish, blogging, or other fun questions?? OR feel free to leave them here on this review!! 🥳📚🎉