A Thousand Steps into Night

HarperCollins/Clarion. Mar. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780358469988.
Gr 8 Up–Otori Miuko is an unassuming, clumsy girl of the serving class whose life revolves around helping her father run their deteriorating inn until the day she is cursed by a demon when she stays out too long after dark. Suddenly banished from her village, Miuko has to find a way to reverse the curse and reveal the identity of the demon she now knows is hiding in the prince’s skin. Awara is an oppressive place for the lower class, especially women, and although Miuko had always chafed against those boundaries, she misses them still when she has to strike out on her own. Through Miuko’s travels, readers are introduced to the rich fantasy world of Awara, influenced by Japanese mythology; the many spirits, demons, and gods Miuko encounters help her fulfill her quest. Miuko’s unlikely friends create a charming cast of characters to flesh out the worldbuilding. The true question then becomes whether she wants to relinquish the freedoms she’s suddenly embraced, or if one demon girl can change the world? Chee once again creates a lush fantasy world that revolves around a girl discovering her own power. Miuko never takes the easy way out, even when it would solve all of her problems, because she knows she has to do things the right way in order to create real change. Just like Miuko, the story never takes the path that’s expected. Footnotes throughout offer more detail on the various spirits Miuko encounters, including helpful pronunciation guides.
VERDICT A definite purchase for all libraries.

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