Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu.
While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.
After the good first part of the series, I was really curious about the actual novel. And I was not disappointed.
“Shinigami” is part two of the series, even though it’s set before the events of “Kogitsune”. You should read “Kogitsune” before you pick up this book. It’s a free short story, so there’s nothing to lose and it will definitely help you understand this book.
I’m not sure if the blurb quite does this amazing book justice. It sounds a little trivial, when this story is anything but. I probably wouldn’t call it a “coming-of-age love story” either, more like historical fantasy steeped in Japanese mythology with a healthy dash of heartbreaking romance.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Japan and it’s folklore and mythology. After the very good first part, I had very high expectations of this second installment. And “Shinigami” did not just live up to them, it actually exceeded them.
I’m somewhat familiar with Japanese mythology, but not an expert by any means. There’s a dictionary at the end of the book, so you can always cross check if you don’t understand something. You should still be familiar with the most common Japanese titles, though. I actually felt like I now know more about Japan than I did before starting the book, but it never felt like the author was writing a lecture.
The romance itself is rather slow burn, since the book essentially starts with Hiro’s birth. So it takes a while for Hiro and Ryu to meet and it takes even longer for a romantic relationship to develop. But that allowed for a natural growth of their feelings and it was wonderful to witness it. There’s not a ton of sex either and it’s not very explicit, but it was definitely very sensual.
The setting of ancient Japan was extremely well written. The author clearly did a lot of research and knows what she’s writing about. I loved all the details and it made it all very real to me. It’s not always an easy read, so you might not want to read while half asleep. Unless you know your Japanese history and mythology in your sleep, then you’re all set. If not, it does require a bit of concentration, because it’s a rather complex story.
I was happy to get a background story for a few characters of the first part. Biko-san makes another appearance and he’s so adorable. I’m totally naming a cat after him, if I ever get one.
There were some very emotional moments, both happy and sad. It never felt sappy or over the top, though. The ending was both heartbreaking and wonderful and I’m eagerly awaiting part three. That one will be about a minor character who only got one scene in the entire book, but I’m still curious to learn more about him.
Overall, “Shinigami” is a truly brilliant book. If you love historical fantasy, Japanese mythology and folklore and don’t mind a slow-burn, non-traditional romance, you must read this series. One of my highlights of the year.
That cover. Oh my god. So cool. I love it. I’m totally having a fangirl moment just because of the cover. It’s perfect and makes me sad I don’t own a print version. It would look great in my bookshelf.
Book 2 – Shinigami
Kindle Edition,245 pages
Published October 1st 2019 (first published August 13th 2019)