ALC Review: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side. 

CW: bullying, assault, racial slurs, violence and gore

I used to be quite disinterested in reading any dark fantasy until a while ago and probably why I used to read a lot of YA because they could be gritty but never too dark. But that changed when I started exploring books mostly written by BIPOC authors which blew all my assumptions about the subgenre, and I have read quite a few amazing ones since then. And that’s how I found this book on my tbr. And I find myself lucky that I received the audiobook advance copy because it was just wow.

I didn’t know much going into this story, so it was actually a pretty surprise the way this book started. It set the tone for what was to come and it only got more intense. The author is brilliant at creating the atmosphere in this story. As we are dealing with Death and Reapers and Shinigami here, it’s really interesting how oppressive and suffocating the setting feels, even more augmented by Rebecca’s narration. The writing is very evocative and searingly emotional, forcing us to feel everything that’s happening. The story does start off a bit slow but immediately picks up once Ren reaches Japan and from then on, it’s like a bullet train ride with no brakes. The author also uses many creatures from Japanese folklore and mythology in her plot, interweaving their legends with the lives of our characters, making for a very exciting read. But the many confrontational scenes are what will leave a mark on any reader because they are very gory and violent and explicitly described, making them feel even more scary and horrifying when listening to them.

Ren is a protagonist whose arc is a masterclass in characterization. She is biracial and has always been made to feel less and worthless and unwanted due to her mixed heritage, but she has kept it all bottled up because she doesn’t have much choice. But once the dam breaks, we get to see just how much rage and wrath she has been hiding and what she is ready to do to finally find her true place in this world. She is extremely frustrating as well as equally sympathetic at the same time, and that’s what makes her a compelling character. We want to hate her because she is making horrible decisions but also feel like she finally deserves to do what she wants. It’s a tale of contradictions, the descent into the thirst for power, the rise and fall and transformation of a powerful woman who is ultimately lonely despite being surrounded by thousands.

And then we have Neven and Hiro. Neven is Ren’s brother, the compassionate and merciful among the two, who is the moral compass trying to pull away Ren from a path of no return. But he is not always successful because her deep anger and sadness is not something he can understand, because he has never had to feel unwanted or bullied because of his heritage. Hiro on the other hand is a charming man who instantly ignites a feeling in Ren, encouraging and supporting her in everything that she needs to do to achieve her goal, however distasteful the task might be. They are an unstoppable force when together and it’s easy to get lost in their love story. But there is more to him than we can ever guess.

But ultimately this is a story of death, not love. The author weaves a terrific tale of power and anger and hope, and what happens when all three come together. This is harsh and brutal but extremely unforgettable, with the narrator’s voice remaining in our head long after we’ve finished listening to the audiobook. And what an ending that was. The last 10-15% seems both predictable and utterly shocking and it left me gasping because I couldn’t believe it all happened… and kept happening. I can only guess what more horrors we’ll have in store for us in the sequel but I’m ready to take the plunge.

PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Dreamscape Media for providing me with the advance listening copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

8 thoughts on “ALC Review: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Add yours

  1. WAAAA 😍😍😍 Your review is beautiful Sahi. I heartily agree how much BIPOC authors have changed my mind a lot too with their intense, gritty and gripping writing. I’ve been having my eye out for reviews of this book. I’m glad it’s your review I read! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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