When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana - an ancestral Japanese sword - out of its hiding place in her parent's attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.
The paralysing paranoia that descends on her before she gets to her friend's party is her first clue. The vivid and terrifying visions that nearly get her killed are a pretty good warning too.
The giant nine-tailed cat demon that comes after the sword and tries to rip her throat out? Overkill.
Seconds away from becoming kitty-food, Mio is saved by Shinobu, a mysterious warrior boy. But it's already too late. Mio has ruptured the veil between the mortal realm and the Underworld, and now the gods and monsters of ancient Japan stalk the streets of London, searching for her and the sword.
With the help of her best friend Jack, a fox spirit named Hikaru - and the devoted protection of the betwitchingly familiar Shinobu - Mio attempts to discover the true nature of the sword and its connection to the Yamato family. Because if she doesn't learn how to control the katana's incredible powers, she's in danger of being overwhelmed by them. And if she can't keep the sword safe from the terrible creatures who want it for their own, she'll lose not only her own life... but the love of a lifetime.
Zoe Marriott is a goddess, and I am just a humble servant.
Okay, wait, maybe that was a weird way to start this review but, honestly, there's just no other way to put it. I have forever worshipped this woman's writing and she has not failed me yet. I've loved all of her previous books (all fantasy), with Daughter of the Flames being one of my all time favorite reads ever. That being said, I adored Shadows on the Moon and I loved how Marriott weaved in the traditional Japanese intricacies with such ease so I should have been confident about The Night Itself.
Still, somehow I wasn't. Marriott has forever impressed with her fantasy titles but urban fantasy is a whole new ball game. I was hoping that Marriott would not dissapoint and sure enough she didn't. This book is thrilling from the get go, with the action happening pretty fast in. I did have some issues with it but they were, for the most part, rebutted by the awesomeness that is Zoe Marriott's action writing.
There's something about Japanese mythology which has always gripped me, maybe it's my childhood with anime and manga or maybe it's something else, and I loved how these things were written from a British born Japanese girl's point of view. The action was amazingly written - especially the final action scene - and Mio was kick-ass (if sometimes rather annoying). I was gripped from start to finish.
However, as I said above, Mio was pretty annoying to me sometimes. To start with I never got why she took the katana. Forget about her Grandpa's severe warnings and her somewhat confusingly broken memories, what teenager takes a sharp scary sword to a party anyway?! That's just screaming stupid to me. Sure, it completed her costume, but what's up with a plastic katana from eBay?
Also, as much as I myself swooned over Shinobu, I did have some issues with the love story. I felt that it developed way too quickly (oh why the insta-love, YA authors?!) and it lacked chemistry. Like, I didn't hate it. I shipped it pretty hard by the end, but I would have preferred a few more moments rather than 'ohmygodthisjapaneseguycameoutofmyswordandheshotomg'. I expected better from The-Goddess-That-Is-Zoe-Marriott and this was a tiny letdown.
However any issues that I had with the main cast was easily fixed by the supporting cast. Hikaru and Jack are characters that I adore and I cannot wait to see how all of that plays out. I'll be reading the others even if only for them.
Overall, The Night Itself was not without it's flaws. It was, however, gripping and funny and a really pleasant read.
Overall Rating: B+
Book released July 4th 2013 by Walker Books