The Night Itself
July 4th 2013
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.
I have been excited about reading The Night Itself pretty much ever since Zoe announced it, mainly because a) Zoe Marriott is fabulous and writes fabulous books and b) it is an urban fantasy for teens set in London and based around Japanese mythology. Seriously, who the hell wouldn't want to read that?! The Night Itself was really, really good, but it didn't 100% meet my expectations, though I can already tell that it will become one of my favourite series, like, ever.
My favourite part of the book was definitely the mythology. Ever since I was about ten, I think, I've had this huge fascination with Japan (by which I mean I have read and seen more than a shit ton of manga and anime) and its folklore, and seeing how it could be integrated into the modern world, so I was understandably really bloody excited about the folklore aspect of The Night Itself. It was really refreshing, not just to read about the mythology of a culture that is so different from out own, but also just because of, like, how much Zoe actually knows as well as how she's worked it to the book's advantage. It just worked really well, and really, we should have more books about magic Katana's (which reminded me a bit of, like, all the historical/paranormal mangas and animes like InuYasha and Rurouni Kenshin ect. Not a bad thing at all - they were the things that really set off my interest in the history and culture of Japan, so...) and Fox demons/Kitsune.
The book itself takes place over the span of about 2 days, so it feels like all the time in the story is really expanded and so much happens that you sort of forget that it's all taken place in this compressed time period as you're swept away by everything that's happening. I think it had its advantages and disadvantages, especially as it was the first book in the series. On one hand, I think it worked really well because of the fact that it really threw you into the action straight away with little release from all of the events that take place, and just the sort of madness of the completely strange world that Mio has been thrown into with hardly any preparation. But, it did mean that I didn't get as much, like, backstory and development as I wanted, but I do think that that will all come in the next two books, so I'm not too bothered.
I liked Mio and Jack and Shinobu and Hikaru a lot, too, as well as just the pure diversity of characters. It sucks, but only a handful of the books on my shelf are narrated by or have main characters that are not white and/or not straight, so it's a joy to read a book which has both of those things (Mio, Shinobu and (I think) Hikaru are Japanese and Jack is mixed race and not straight - the Jack is short for Jacqueline, btw). Also, they were just a lot of fun to read about. I really liked Mio and Jack's friendship, and I didn't even mind the sort of insta-love between Mio and Shinobu (honestly, don't let it put you off now that I've said that. It actually works.) and the changes that happened to Mio as a result of all the stuff that happens.
The Night Itself is not my favourite of Zoe's books (FrostFire and Shadows on the Moon are absolute crackers) but I think that might partially be down to the fact it was just such a completely different book to anything she's written before, which is why I like the cover so much. It shows that even though The Night Itself is by the same person who writes beautiful, amazing high fantasy, this is a completely new turn for her and yes, it is different and new and not what you expect, it's still awesome. I hope it attracts a wider audience for her work, too, so that even more people will get to read her fabulous books.
Overall, I liked The Night Itself a lot, and that it worked really well as the first book to what will be an awesome, exciting and probably emotional trilogy.