The Name of the Blade

368p. Candlewick. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763669577; ebk. ISBN 9780763674168. LC 2013955946.
Gr 6 Up—Mio Yamato has owned a beautiful and dangerous katana for most of her life, a gift passed down from her beloved Ojjichan (grandfather), meant to become hers when she turns 16. She knows she shouldn't take it out earlier than her 16th birthday, but with her parents away on a trip and a Halloween party to get ready for, the teen takes it down just days before it was meant to be hers. Almost immediately, she regrets her decision. To and from the party, she begins to see dark figures and omens everywhere. The Nekomata, an ancient cat monster begins stalking those close to her, and a boy she has only seen in her dreams shows up to aid her against the monster she has apparently set free. Since everything has come from the sword, Mio feels like she has to make it right, especially when the monster threatens her best friends. What follows is a crucial battle for a highly sympathetic character and a clever twist on Japanese mythology. The story is slow to develop, but readers who keep with it will be rewarded with unique and fun characters, a truly dire conflict, and a lifetime-spanning love story. This is a particularly good choice for library collections that need more myth-based fiction, and want to branch out from Greek myth and fairy tales.—Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City
Handling her family's ancestral samurai sword, Londoner Mio sets loose dangerous Japanese gods and monsters. Mixing myth, horror, humor, and romance, this urban fantasy, first in a trilogy, takes too long to gain traction. The diverse cast (including nonwhites and a lesbian) get lazy descriptions: Asian eyes are "almond-shaped" and "slanting"; a mixed-race character has "an amazing year-round golden tan."

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