Today I am excited to present to you a new release middle grade fantasy tale from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky that delves into the complex and densely populated world of Japanese folklore and mythology. The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary features all the struggles one would expect of a young lass having to spend a potentially boring holiday in the countryside, away from her friends and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, combined with some delightfully unpredictable forays into the spirit world around the shrine in her grandmother’s village. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and you could be lucky enough to receive a copy too, provided you read on and enter the giveaway!
But let’s get on with it. Here’s the blurb from the publisher:
In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki, and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever.
The Night Parade
By Kathryn Tanquary
January 1, 2016; Hardcover ISBN 9781492623244
Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Now if you haven’t already been sucked in by that eye-poppingly gorgeous cover, allow me to point out some of the aspects of this book I really enjoyed. Regular readers of this blog will know that we quite enjoy a good foray into books that have any kind of link to Japan, being that it is one of the few places that Mad Martha has had the pleasure of visiting. (We’ve even got two more Japan-y books coming up at the end of January!) Clearly then, The Night Parade was a book that certainly caught my attention and I loved the wide variety of yokai (Japanese spirits) that made an appearance in Saki’s adventures. Having recently enjoyed the series of guest posts over at Part-Time Monster featuring various Japanese creepies, including the Tsukumogami – or spirits of old, disused, forgotten inanimate household items, including umbrellas, sandals and lanterns – I was beyond excited to see these bizarre and quirky spirits get a whole section of the story for their own towards the end of the book.
The growing relationship between Saki and her grandmother was also a highlight. Throughout the story, Saki begins to realise that the problems of a reasonably spoilt teenager are not necessarily the worst difficulties that one could be burdened with, and her developing recognition of the needs of others was neatly executed, without any corny preaching to the target audience.
The story is quite episodic, with Saki exploring a different part of the spirit world over the three nights that she is given to reverse her curse. These “episodes” are all different in tone, with the first having the creepiest atmosphere, the second cramming in the most action and the third devoted to solving the problems of broken relationships. Even the most jaded reader of middle grade fantasy could not fault the sheer diversity of fantastic and mythological characters brought to bear on Saki’s quest, and those who are looking for a change of scenery from the usual middle grade fare will appreciate the world-building – and the potential for further research into the plethora of Japanese folk spirits – found here.
The only thing that slowed the pace for me during reading was the inclusion of some fairly typical “teen angst” type episodes in which Saki grapples with the pressures of trying to fit in with the cool kids both at home in Tokyo and in her grandmother’s village. While these sections are important in terms of Saki’s overall growth throughout the novel, they felt like the same old grist for the middle grade mill that regular readers of books for this age group will have seen ad infinitum. With such a little-used and in-depth fantasy world playing out in the rest of the story, I was a bit disappointed that the non-fantasy part of the plot trotted out such a well-worn storyline.
Overall though, this is a breath of fresh air in the middle grade market and I hope some other authors jump on the bandwagon and treat us to some more adventures featuring the world of Japanese mythology. For now though, you’ll have to be satisfied getting stuck in to The Night Parade, in all its quirky, creepy, expansive glory!
But don’t take my word for it. Read some for yourself!
Excerpt from The Night Parade:
In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.
Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.
The fingers curled down toward her throat.
She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.
Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.
It was not her brother.
It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.
The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-blue on everything it touched. Her not-brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-o’-the-wisp.
“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.
Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”
It leaned over. She stared into its will-o’-the-wisp’s eyes.
“The Night Parade, of course.”
With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.
“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”
Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.
“W-what have you done to my brother?”
It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”
Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.
“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—”
“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”
Saki blinked. “What?”
It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”
“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”
“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.
“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”
The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your final decision…”
Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.
Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.
On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.
Praise for The Night Parade:
“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films…Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review
“An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal
“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”–Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)
About the Author:
Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.
Social Networking Links:
Now, onto the giveaway! Unfortunately for us Southern Hemispherites, this one is only open to residents of the USA and Canada (booo!). If you happen to live in one of those locales (lucky you!) you can enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below:. Good luck!
Until next time,