From the author of Kitsune (2015) comes a romantic fantasy about a priestess who unleashes an elemental dragon, only to learn that she possesses untapped power herself.
In the land of Akatsuki, Suzume is a priestess living among “shrine maidens” who worship and serve the God of the Mountain. She once enjoyed her status as the emperor’s daughter, betrothed to General Tsubaki; then her mother’s infidelity came to light, and Suzume was forced into shameful exile. Now an “unwilling bride of the mountain god,” she kneels one day before a pedestal holding an obsidian stone. Suddenly, red light bursts from the girl and hits the rock; a dragon then explodes from it, and Suzume and the other shrine maidens assume it is their god. The dragon, however, soon changes into the rakishly handsome Kaito, who wants revenge against his former love, Kazue, who sealed him inside the shrine 500 years ago. Suzume joins Kaito on the quest through forest and swamp as he hunts for Kazue’s reincarnated form; all the while, Suzume copes with the fiery spiritual power that flows so strongly within her. And although she and Kaito are drawn to each other, it’s his elemental ice powers that cause sparks to fly whenever they touch. Seasoned fantasy author Andrews explores Japanese folklore in this latest novel, populating Akatsuki with kodama (tree spirits), yokai (ghosts), and oni (demons). She makes Kaito into a foul, capricious benefactor with lines such as, “you amuse me, but if you overstep your bounds...I will not hesitate to kill you.” Along the way, the two encounter many foes, but several friends, too, including Rin (a fox spirit) and Tsuki/Akira (a brother and sister sharing one body). A recurring stranger taunts Suzume as well, one whose role in Kazue’s mystery may be darker than anyone imagines. Andrews also seeds mythic grandeur through her narrative, as when Suzume asks of the immortals, “Is everything just a game to them?” The epic finale ties up plot threads nicely while also prompting further adventures.
An atmospheric, superbly paced series opener.