Gr 8 Up—A Reaper of London, a servant of death, Ren's duty is gathering human souls; she's aware of her place, below the High Reapers. Since Ren is both Japanese and British, she looks different than other British Reapers. She is a Shinigami (Japanese Reaper) who can control light. Her own father, though part of the High Council, fails to recognize her. Unable to control her light, she scorches the eyes of the High Reapers who mockingly call her "Half-Breed." Her only solace is her kind stepbrother Neven, who risks his life to journey with Ren to Japan. Baker has created a chillingly dark fantasy set in London and Japan during the 1800s, with elements of Japanese and European myths. Adding thrills, action, and a bit of scare, Baker makes good use of metaphors and similes with captivating language and depiction of scenery. The characters are equally interesting; the High Council is reminiscent of the Volturi and the London Reapers similar to the vampires from the Twilight saga. Ren is an undeniable heroine; though she is an outcast, forced to suppress her true emotions and seen as inferior in darkness, on the flip side, she is light—a formidable warrior ready to sacrifice her life for Neven. Ren risks it all to forge a rightful place where she is respected and accepted. VERDICT A triumphant debut, this thrilling fantasy tackles death, clad with a heroine unafraid to wrench a soul from the depths of a being and venture to the darkest of underworlds. A must for those in search of a place to call their own.—Suraya Jairam, Queens P.L., Hollis, NY
A young Reaper in the late 19th century must prove her worth by slaying dangerous Japanese spirits.
Ren Scarborough was born half British and half Japanese Reaper (the latter called Shinigami) but has been living and collecting souls in London, England, for as long as she can remember. Her black hair and eyes make her stand out, leading other British Reapers to bully and abuse her. One day, her Shinigami powers—she can control light—rage out of control, forcing her to flee to Japan accompanied by the only individual who ever cared about her: Neven, her younger half brother. Seeking acceptance and a home, Ren and Neven descend into Yomi, the Japanese underworld. She is met there with resistance due to her foreign looks and must prove her worth. Aided by a handsome, exiled Shinigami who has a club foot, Ren must complete a near-impossible task by killing three murderous Yokai, or spirits, to earn her right to be accepted as a Shinigami. This dark historical fantasy seamlessly weaves Japanese folklore and magic into its storyline. Perfectly paced, it is filled with action, horrific death, mysterious motives, and raw emotions. Ren is complex and morally gray as she fights her way through a world of death and monsters. The story also touches on racism, ableism, self-acceptance, and finding one’s place in the world. The descriptive writing builds a highly immersive world for this duology opener.
Dark, gruesome—and absolutely captivating. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)