Ren is half British Reaper and half Japanese Shinigami. Because of her mixed heritage, she is bullied by the other Reapers and abandoned by her father. When her Shinigami light powers surge out of her control, Ren must flee London and travel with her brother, Neven, to Japan in the hopes of being accepted as a Shinigami. But, when she arrives, she finds that her heritage still marks her as an outcast. In order to prove herself as a Shinigami, Ren and Neven must find and kill three murderous Yokai. Aided by another outcast Shinigami, Ren and Neven embark on a dark and twisting adventure that takes them through the Japanese underworld and into the clutches of malevolent spirits.
The Keeper of Night is an action-packed tale with a dark, moody atmosphere. There’s a lot to love about this book and a couple things that bothered me, but overall I thought it was a compelling, fantastic read.
The world building in the book is haunting and wonderfully realized. From the streets of London in the late 19th century to the dark Japanese underworld called Yomi to Japanese villages being haunted by spirits, the setting really came alive and became a character itself. The writing is incredibly descriptive and the tension in each setting was palpable. The world is riddled with fascinating spirits and Japanese folklore is tied into the story in a really satisfying way.
The book is also perfectly paced. It’s filled with action that is fleshed out with a lot of heart. Ren’s struggle for acceptance and desire to find a place for herself in a cruel world is both relatable and heartbreaking. Her growing relationship with Hiro, their guide through the spirit world, created a satisfying romance and moments of levity in an otherwise very dark novel.
I loved the bond between Ren and Neven from the start. Neven is softhearted, a trait that is not admired for a Reaper, but his kind heart means he is filled with love and acceptance for his sister who is otherwise not accepted by her people. Neven is willing to sacrifice his entire life in order to remain with his sister and accompany her to Japan. Throughout the book, they love and support each other in a really wonderful way, until about the last third of the book when everything shifts. I was so sad when this shift happened, because their dynamic was one of my favorite parts of the book. Ren, obsessed with becoming a Shinigami at any cost, stops caring for and listening to her brother and instead does whatever she wants. She begins to treat Neven incredibly cruelly resulting in a major betrayal. While I understand that this needed to happen to continue the story in the next book, I really did not like the way their relationship changed and thought it was a big personality shift for Ren.
Though I really disliked Ren at the end of the novel, I found that it made the end a little more thrilling and surprising. The novel ends on a pretty major cliffhanger that has me anxiously awaiting the next book.
If you’ve read The Keeper of Night be sure to tell me what you thought!
CW: death, murder, graphic injuries, parental neglect