The Night Itself – Book Review
YA Urban Fantasy
Book #1 in the Name of the Blade Series
When Mio steals te 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 realises 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 am a big fan of Zoe Marriott’s and while I have enjoyed each and everyone one of her previous books, none of them wowed me in quite the same way the ‘The Night Itself’ has managed. This is a truly spectacular novel! Packed with action, intrigue and Japanese folklore, the story gripped me from beginning to end.
The story begins with fifteen year old Mio, a British born girl of Japanese heritage. Creeping into the attic, she steals her family’s ancestral sword from its dust covered case– telling herself it’s just the thing she needs to complete her Halloween costume. But the truth is, Mio’s been dreaming of the sword for years. Ever since the day her grandfather revealed it to her, with the promise that one day, it would belong to her.
Yet by taking the sword from its hiding place, Mio unknowingly unleashes a terrible creature upon the streets of London. Now with only her best friend Jack, a fox spirit and a seemingly immortal, 500 year old Japanese warrior – she must battle back the darkness and learn the secrets of her family’s sword before it’s too late. Otherwise should the Katana fall into the wrong hands, the world as Mio knows it, will be over… and the creatures of the underworld will overwhelm the earth.
The plot and pacing of this book are amazing. Not once did the story drag. What with the characters being thrown from one terrible thing to another, I felt like the action never stopped. With the backstory told through Mio’s memories with her grandfather, and the romance squeezed in between each (slightly less) life threatening scene, this was a book I found very hard to put down.
Each character is beautifully written and adds something special to the story. Mio is a particularly strong heroine and while she lacks confidence in both herself and her abilities, I liked seeing the impact each new event had on her. You could literally see her growing both stronger and surer in herself as the story progressed.
Shinobu is also a very worthy love interest for her. With secrets and problems of his own, it was easy to fall in love with him. Both he and Mio make such as nice couple and despite the short time they've known each other, nothing about their romance feels forced. Instead it reads like two strangers, thrown into a war against evil and with each brush with death, find themselves more strongly bonded together. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship will develop in the next book.
Yet the secondary characters are also kick ass. I absolutely love Jack – Mio’s feisty, sarcastic and lesbian best friend. She brings a lot of humor to the story. However I can’t help but feel sorry for Hikaru – the gorgeous male fox spirit who is completely smitten with her. If only he could be a woman…
As for the Nekomata and dark Goddess, they are wonderful villains. The myth and legends based around the Goddess vengeful vendetta to kill humans makes the story read so well. And through using so much myth and mythology I feel like the story just flows seamlessly with no hiccups, no breaks, and no pauses while you try to wonder what if…
So overall, a five star read! And one I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of fantasy fiction and all things Japanese, especially as I think this story would make an excellent anime! Great stuff!