A Japanese teen travels the spirit world to break a curse upon her family.
Tanquary’s debut explores the Japanese spirit world through 13-year-old Saki. Her family travels to her grandmother’s rural village for its Obon ceremony, but she’d rather spend her summer vacation with her friends back in Tokyo. On the first evening of the night parade, when ancestors’ spirits return to visit their relatives, Saki is tricked by local kids into ringing a sacred bell. Later that night, she is awoken by the first of three spirit guides who aid her quest to break the curse of death upon her family. She soon learns that the entire human world is in grave danger. During her journey she meets spirits she has only seen in her childhood books. Most spirits do not care for human children, but Saki manages to find help in unexpected places. Tanquary provides a cursory introduction to Shinto tradition and culture but fails to fully commit to the Japanese spirit world. Some spirits are called by their Japanese names while others use the English translations (“fox” instead of “kitsune” and “ogre” instead of “oni”; but “kappa” for a water-spirit and “tengu” for a birdlike spirit). This inconsistency, together with a tendency to tell rather than show, distracts readers from the supernatural elements of Saki’s adventures and keeps them from immersing themselves in her world.
An introductory foray into Japanese culture for fantasy readers. (Fantasy. 9-13)