Seven Deadly Shadows

HarperTeen. Jan. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062570819.
Gr 7 Up–Kira Fujikawa loves spending time at the Shinto shrine that has been in her family for generations. The daily life of caring for guests and learning from her grandfather makes her feel protected beyond the blessings she knows are within the sacred ground. However, her days in the prestigious high school she attends on scholarship are less than ideal. No matter how great her grades are, she is singled out and bullied. Although she tries hard to be honorable to her family, she cannot seem to make her two lives harmonize. Then the shrine is attacked—leaving her feeling vulnerable on every front. Can she summon the courage needed to stand up for herself, or will her family’s legacy be lost forever? Alameda and Maetini’s novel displays how traditional Japanese folklore can be adapted into modern stories. Set mainly in the historical landscape of Kyoto, the intense action sequences feel as if they are right out of the pages of popular manga. Its well-researched details immerse readers fully but carefully into Japanese culture. Japanese vocabulary is clearly defined; while some readers may find words that are unfamiliar, the vivid descriptions of landscapes and creatures elicit appropriate feelings of terror and excitement. This leads to a successfully created magical world. Unfortunately, the narrative suffers from the shallow interactions between the main character and everyone else in the world. This is especially true during scenes of romance, when relationships develop too quickly and awkwardly to be believable.
VERDICT Purchase for collections where books on Japanese culture are popular.

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