Review of A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee

In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did. 

A Thousand Steps into Night is a standalone YA fantasy steeped in Japanese folklore. Following Miuko as she makes her way from clumsy awkward teen to clumsy awkward teen demon in waiting, the story feels somewhat childlike in its narrative. Miuko is from a sheltered home where propriety is held in high regard, her life experiences are minimal which are reflected in the way way the writing plays out. One thing is for sure, she just can’t catch a break and its both comical and heart breaking at times as she gets so near yet so far from what she is trying to achieve.

The story started off strong and i felt instantly pulled into the world, there was little lead into to the story arc and we hit the ground running along with Miuko as she quickly finds herself understanding what it is to be one foot in one world and the other somewhere else entirely. There is so much going on as Miuko runs against time from place to place searching for both a cure and place to hide from those giving chase – like so many “journey” based stories she finds many who both help and also hinder her in her task. I enjoyed how some of her stops felt like genuine trials, especially in the village without women, and that the sinister presence of the demon voice giving Miuko series pause to consider demon life.

However, i did find this book didn’t keep me as hooked as it did in the start, there was a huge number of people to keep track of and the flighty nature of the journey meant that world building had to take a back seat. It was just lacking a layer of substance that would have kept me hooked from page to page.

It’s a nice little fantasy adventure though, very much appropriate to the YA market and i liked that it was a standalone. If you’re after a light and quick read that isn’t fuelled by romance and has a strong focus on friendship and family, give this a go!

Thank you to Harper 360 YA for the review copy

Review of Butterfly Assassin by Finn Longman

Girl by day, killer by night: a dark, twisting thriller about a teen assassin’s attempt to live a normal life.

Trained and traumatised by a secret assassin program for minors, Isabel Ryans wants nothing more than a new life as a normal civilian. And she might just be in with a shot when she befriends Emma Westray, because for the first time in her life things are looking up.

But when Isabel blows her cover by impulsively murdering a burglar, she draws the attention of the guilds – the two organisations who control the city of Espera. An unaffiliated killer like Isabel is either a potential asset … or a threat to be eliminated.

Will the blood on her hands cost her everything?

The Butterfly Assassin is a faced paced adrenaline ride that will leave you struggling to put it down. The tone is set from the very first chapter that this is a book that will not pull any punches or sanitise its violence for the sake of its readers, it hits the upper end of dark for the YA bracket

Isabel Ryans is a character that you can’t help but hurt for, the fact that she transforms so effortlessly from student to cold blooded killer is heartbreaking; that her programming is so entrenched her body reacts before her brain can process, she’s like a young black widow. She is so endearing though as she tries so hard, every step of the way, to be a normal teen to try and shield her past life but she just cant catch a break as it catches up with her in the most catastrophic ways

The story works well if you are a visual reader, playing out very much like a movie, character driven by Isabel as she races against the clock, there’s a lot going on and several different players who may or may not be who they seem or to be trusted. The landscape feels very bleak and sterile at times, I read in shades of grey.

I do feel a little torn in that I do love wordbuilding and I felt that there was more to know, i would have liked to have understood more of the history behind the guilds and how they came to exist in parallel with the day to day, and had a more descriptive vision of the world, it could have been anywhere at any time. However, i do have to balance that with the fact that the thriller pacing would have fallen flat if time was taken to explain every little thing, much is left to the reader to connect the dots in the background and i was actually ok with that in the end.

I found the use of esperanto interesting, especially as it’s not a language that really pops up often, I liked the fact that each chapter had both English and Esperanto meanings, like a little lesson each time!

Whilst the story wrapped up in whirlwind, it was a very enjoyable and easy whirlwind to get swept up in and I’m excited to find out where Isabel Ryans may end up next!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the early review copy