One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.
This book sunk its teeth in and didn’t let go.
It blends Inuyasha with Lord of the Rings in a magnificent, ancient Japanese fantasy adventure. And I mean, both those franchises are utterly brilliant, so I don’t make the comparison lightly. But this is a truly remarkable story.
My absolute favorite part of this story was the interplay between the cast of characters and the setting. I loved the diverse backgrounds of each, as each character works as a brushstroke in the painting that is worldbuilding. I won’t spoil it for you, as the crew Yumeko builds along the way to complete Master Isao’s dying request constitutes major spoilers, but I’ve got to give Kagawa props on how she fleshed out the world of Iwagoto through each character’s backstory, motive, and characterization. Each one fluffed out the world beautifully. Take Yumeko, for example. With her kitsune heritage, we come to better understand the yokai of the world (both the good and the bad) as she interacts with them. It creates a rounded, full-bodied effect, as we see the good, the bad, and the ugly (I’m looking at you, spider ladies).
The mythology runs deep in Iwagoto, and Kagawa does a masterful job of conveying that on the page. While the journey felt a tad meandering, I enjoyed the episodic nature of the encounters, as the group overcame various challenges on their quest. Kagawa used that to flesh out the world of Iwagoto and the Japanese myths which inspired the creatures in her book. It gave it a very anime feel to me, which I appreciated, and conveyed the dangers of Yumeko’s undertaking. The journey, after all, is what we’re here for. What kind of book would it be if she arrived at her destination, no troubles along the way? Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom left a lasting impression because it was a grand undertaking rife with danger, just like Kagome and Inuyasha’s with collecting the sacred jewel shards.
I even enjoyed the budding romantic tension between Tatsumi and Yumeko (come on, you had to have seen that coming in a YA fantasy book!). It wasn’t a surprise when they started drawing close, and it played hardcore into the emotionless warrior/naive girl tropes, but Kagawa did such a fantastic job expressing it, that I ate it up like a cat with catnip. Yes it felt a tad formulaic, and yes, it flirted with being too cliche. But the writing was solid, like rock-solid, and I found myself cheering for the duo.
Overall, I inhaled this book like I do when I spot chocolate cake. It pulled me in and I floundered with the MUST-READ-MORE and MAKE-IT-LAST thoughts only good books can give you. I’m giving it a solid 5 out of 5!