I’m a huge fan of YA fantasy, but I think I’ve decided I’m not a huge fan of fantasy duologies. I have started to notice, at least in the duologies I have read recently, is a big issue with pacing. Most fantasy stories need time to develop and establish world-building. I find that the first book in a series of 3 or more books, spends the majority of book 1 just creating the visual for readers. While duologies tend to priorities plot over world building. The success of the initial depictions generally decides how much I will enjoy the series, so it is a pretty significant thing for me. I need to feel immersed in the world before I can appreciate the plot, characters, and ultimately the story. Instead, with these fantasy duologies, I feel rushed and book 1 and 2 feel almost like separate stories to me.
The Keeper of the Night series falls into this duology pitfall for me. While I have not read book 2 yet, I would have preferred book 1 to simply be longer rather than have another book. Baker covers quite a bit of ground in this first story, and I felt a bit rushed while reading it, simply because we are still learning about the world of Death while being in the middle of the action.
For the story itself, this is such a unique take on death lore from around the world. While our focus is mainly on Shinigami/Japanese mythological creatures and legends, Baker does a great job of tying in lore from a variety of other cultures as well. It’s such a cool concept to explore the world through ‘death’s eyes’ and to really see the differences and similarities of death lore from different cultures. Huge points for uniqueness.
Our cast of characters is also extremely unique. They are all hard to relate to especially Ren but considering none of them are human, it actually adds to the story rather than detracts. Only Ren’s brother Neven, shows any sort of humanity which makes it hard to determine exactly how the siblings feel about each other. The relationship with Hiro is also a bit hard to fully understand but once again could just be because of the lack of humanity in the characters.
For a debut and being targeted at a younger audience, I did enjoy the story. If you are looking for a fantasy that dives into folklore, specifically Japanese folklore but not limited to it, then I would pick this series up. The ‘rushed’ feeling I had while reading the story though, took away from my experience. I would have liked a bit more lead-up and world-building at the beginning of the story.
The Keeper of the Night is out now. Huge thank you to Inkyard Press for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my Instagram @speakingof_books.