Cover Image: The Keeper of Night

The Keeper of Night

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Member Reviews

The premise of this book sounded like it was designed precisely for me. A nice little fantasy about death and the struggles to embrace a mixed heritage that doesn’t embrace you back? Practically sounds like I commissioned it myself.

One thing that this book does extremely well is the way that it develops the cultural differences between creatures of death. The reapers of London and the Shinigami of Japan are the natural focus of this story, given Ren’s heritage, but the groundwork is well-laid to expand the focus to include the death gods from around the world and the logistics of competing systems of divinity in death. Really fascinating.

<blockquote> I closed his mouth and eyes, then whispered a compulsory prayer to Ankou, the Father of Death and King of the Reapers. Though I had never met him, I felt his presence everywhere the same way that humans felt love or hate or other intangible things. All Reapers were his servants, born halfway between the realm of humans and gods, bound to serve him and keep the human world in balance. Though the humans spoke of us as villains or nightmares, they needed us more than they would ever understand. Death brought humans fear, and fear made humans interesting. Without Death, humans would grow complacent and stale. Even we Reapers would one day surrender to Death’s scythe. In Britain, we served Ankou, but the Reapers beyond our borders answered to a different Death. In China, they served Yanluo, ruler of the Fifth Hell of Wailing, Gouging, and Boiling. In Mexico, they served Santa Muerte, a skeletal saint in brightly colored robes who granted protection to society’s forgotten children. And in Norway, there was Pesta the plague hag who dealt out death with a dusty broom. At least, that was what the legends said. But I knew better than anyone that legends were nothing but overgrown trees sprouted from tiny seeds of truth.</blockquote>

In some ways, the setup reminded me of my absolute favorite part Sylvia Moreno Garcia’s cult classic vampire noir book, <i>Certain Dark Things</i>, which did something similar in the way she set up the various species of vampires based on cultural and geographic lines using mythology and folklore to flesh out their characteristics. It was something I would have loved to see more of in that book, and something that this book, <i>Keeper of the Night</> does extremely good job with, addressing the logistics and power differentials that would be inherent to such a world.

Ok, so here’s the thing. This is easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year! So you might be asking why, given that I loved it so much, I chose a 3 star rating. There is some five star imagery going on here, and the incorporation of Japanese folklore ads a wonderful layer of depth to the setting. The problem with this book lands somewhere between plot and character development, as both were far outshone by the setting and premise.

Extremely mild spoilers below this point.

I disliked the ending. Or rather, I became significantly distracted be a stunning series of poor decisions starting around the 80% mark and continuing to nearly the end. After I finished, I gave it considerable thought. At first I thought that my problem was that things became less plausible and I just didn’t like what was happening. Upon reflection however, I don’t think that was really the source of my discontent. The true disappointment of the ending was an unfortunate conflict between pacing (suddenly going far too fast) and under developed characters. These characters are nifty! I’m all for having more angry and unlikeable female protagonists to balance out the surplus of broody Byronic heroes. 

Ren’s position between two different worlds is fraught in ways that would wear sharp edges onto anyone’s personality. She’s a good sister when she remembers to be, but mostly she isn’t. She’s selfish and self-interested in ways that make perfect sense for someone who has had to fight for every bit of recognition and kindness she has ever received. Which is all good and dandy. Even her Terrible Error In Judgment ™ towards the end of the book is in keeping with her character, including the regret that followed. She is the most consistently developed of out three leads.

Neven’s determination to remain kind is a strength that is underused except for the ways in which it offers complications – we don’t get to see him develop much further than the stumbling block that repeatedly trips his sister’s ambitions—but the sacrifices that he made and the rationale behind his choices could stand to undergo a little reflection in order to fit him in to the narrative in a way that doesn’t make him disposable. He *could* have made an excellent foil for Ren. We see early on the ways that staying close to Ren repeatedly lowered his standing with the other Reapers, despite the fact that he was at least theoretically a more perfect example of what a Reaper should be, given his more reputable bloodline. The thing is, he simply chooses not to be a perfect reaper, not to be a bully like Ivy and the other young reapers, not to ostracize Ren even if it would make his life easier. In many ways, he is as good an example as Ren is that the societal problems in the ranks of the Reapers and Shinigami are not necessarily hereditary.

Slightly less mild spoilers beyond this point.

Hiro has complicated motivations and I think the entire story would have been better served if those motivations had been addressed more in depth as the story progressed, rather than cryptically hinting that he has secrets and expecting to use their reveal as a twist. He is another character that  *could* have been utilized as an extremely effective foil to Ren’s whole deal. He’s got all the personal background to make it work. They could bond over their lack of parental acceptance and the ways that they are visibly a target to the other “better” people in their society, Ren with her Japanese features struggling to blend in to a very white London and Hiro with his damaged foot trying to seek acceptance among the powerfully “perfect” Shinigami. There were a lot of ways to develop the fact that both he and Ren were using each other to get into Izanami’s good graces, desperate to get the things they wanted…and becoming fond of each other along the way. It’s the becoming fond of each other part that got left out the most starkly. Instalove works better at the start of a story than it does at the end, and probably would have worked really well at the start of this particular story, given how very well both their personalities and personal histories could mesh together.

There were ways to hit all of the same plot points that would have made the ending *not* feel like it came  hurtling out of left field, but the character foundations were not established well enough to hold it up (If you’d like a mixed metaphor here at the end of my mixed review).
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I read this book as an ARC through NetGalley, and I'm thrilled I got to experience this book again through audio book. I loved the story as much as I did the first time, and I adored the narrator. Definitely recommend.
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This YA novel was very delicately written. The ending haunts me a little just thinking about it. The prose was very intricate and I adored the main character and her brother. I would recommend to anyone looking into books with a very spooky vibe. Great for the holidays I would say.
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I had already read this book - pasting the initial review below. As far as the audiobook goes.... I didn't love it. Not so much that I didn't finish it and I thoroughly enjoyed "reading" it again. BUT the narrator didn't have enough bite for Ren and it was sooo slow. I usually don't speed up audiobooks when I get an ARC, but after an hour of listening I HAD to. 

This book was great! I was certainly intrigued by the premise and love fantasy, this blew me away.

I don't know Japanese culture or folklore well (read: at all) so it was great to read a story based on an unfamiliar world. While the book is set in the 1800s, it isn't written in an old time-y fashion so it's really easy to get into! It's a well written, fully formed world that tells the story of a bi-racial girl who is just trying to find a place she is welcome and can call home. We can't all understand what Ren goes through every day, everyone can relate to feeling on the outside and you can sympathize with Ren's choices.

But my favorite part of this book? That it surprised me! I didn't see the end coming! Maybe if I was more familiar with Japanese folklore and so wasn't as mesmerized with the world I would have, because it makes sense and you can see the clues looking back. So it was satisfying ending. I also love that it's going to be a duology because I do want more, and it's easily open for more, this did feel like the end of a book. You aren't left on a huge "cliffhanger".

AUDIO REVIEW: I didn't love it. Not so much that I didn't finish it and I thoroughly enjoyed "reading" it again. BUT the narrator didn't have enough bite for Ren and it was sooo slow. I usually don't speed up audiobooks when I get an ARC, but after an hour of listening I HAD to. (less)
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Possible spoilers.....

The story was decent, but I don't think there was a lot of character development.  I was also rather annoyed at the end of the book that there was a sudden declaration of love and a wedding overnight.  It was weird and I didn't feel like that had been building over the course of the book at all.
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When I tell y’all that I loved this book so much, I’m not exaggerating. The Keeper of Night is a historical fantasy that follows Ren Scarborough, a biracial girl that is half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami. She lives in London with her father, who is not explicitly cruel to her but never shows her any type of love or affection, and her half-brother Neven, who seems to be the only person in her family who likes her. They collect the souls of the dead to help them cross to the afterlife, and even though Ren does a good job, she is still treated as an outcast for her Shinigami heritage. 

From the beginning, we can see that this book is going to be dark and heavy. The first chapter is WILD, and as we get to meet Ren you can clearly see she’s not your typical main character. Her anger is a living thing and she doesn’t really feel any empathy for the humans she deals with every day. I tend to love female characters that are unapologetic and angry, so you can BET I fell in love with Ren. The author does a great job portraying her moral greyness, as well as her struggles with being biracial and trying to fit in in one place. Another character that I really loved is an ex-Shinagami they meet upon their arrival on the Japanese underworld called Hiro. His journey through the whole book is so well done and his development left me SHOOK. It was a character that I didn’t expect to love so much. 

TKON is also filled with Japanese folklore and mythology! Japanese folklore can be gory, and this book gave us a full taste of it. The descriptions truly made you feel like you were living everything in 4K. In the fight scenes with the Yokai, I imagined them as epic as the ones you can find in animes like Kimetsu No Yaiba, which also deals with some types of yokai. The author showed us stories of the yokai that Ren was tasked with killing, and it was also one of my favorite parts. 

Overall, if you are looking for a book with villain origin story vibes, rich in world-building and folklore and amazing characters, The Keeper of Night is for you.
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This book seemed very average to me, with a lot of repetitive emphasis on the struggle of being a target of xenophobia and some Japanese folklore sprinkled in. I wasn't impressed with the writing style, any of the flat characters (including Neven and the 🦊), the plot "twist" I saw coming from a mile away, or the basic structure of the story which is barely a stone's throw from your typical YA fantasy.

Ren is 200 and still acts like a self-obsessed teen with no regard for anyone else, and her inability to see the worth of family over some random boy with bad jokes you just met is painful. About half of the book or more is spent rephrasing how much of an outsider Ren is and how she HATES being called a foreigner. Look, this is fair on the grounds of mixed race people reconnecting with their culture but feeling distant from it, but NOT worth the page time on the grounds of literally traveling to Japan for the first time as a reaper of death and everyone noticing you're new in town.

Ren is SO strong that everybody wants to kill her and she's sO dArK aNd MyStEriOuS that nobody will EVER understand her (except for the random boy she just met) and she also basically can't die the way humans do so...??? She pretty closely follows the blueprint for a Mary Sue who can do anything without any consequences, and there's no subversion of this besides her acknowledging she's not a nice person, so I didn't feel connected to her.

The romance in this is pretty bizarre, since Hiro completely falls in love with Ren despite a complete lack of chemistry and he would do ANYTHING for her and blah blah blah. Classic stuff you wanna hear when you're 15. But his character isn't dynamic, he just gets written like a completely different person once he confesses his undying love for Ren and it's just annoying???

Twist-wise, I would've seen this all coming a mile away at the tender age of 16, so I can't really say it's my adult brain being rude; I just don't think this story was very satisfying in what it set out to do. Unfortunate because it has some interesting elements to separate it from other YA fantasy books, but they're underutilized and seem to only exist for shock value.
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Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren has lived over a century in London collecting human souls. She’s despised by her fellow Reapers for her heritage and denounced by her father, with only her younger brother by her side. When her Shinigami powers grow difficult to control, she flees to Japan, hoping to find her mother and the acceptance she’s never had. But the Japanese underworld is dangerous and unfamiliar, and The Goddess of Death is not eager to accept her as one of her own.

I knew going into it that The Keeper of Night was darker than your typical YA and a perfect read for this time of year. It turned out to be even creepier than I expected, delivering an often oppressive atmosphere and terrifying monsters pulled from Japanese mythology. The fact-paced and suspenseful plot kept me turning the page to find out which of my theories were correct and explore more of this world.

I’m not always a fan of what people call beautiful or atmospheric writing, but Kylie Lee Baker’s prose stood out to me as gripping and able to elicit vivid imagery. I should take a moment to note here that I listened to the audiobook, and Rebecca Yeo is one of my favorite narrators I’ve ever listened to. Not only did they masterfully deliver Baker’s prose and the characters' emotions, but kept the voice for each character distinct without being hard to understand even when listening at 2x speed.

Though I know some will disagree with me, I loved Ren as a main character. She’s selfish and bitter towards anyone but her brother (and sometimes even him), but with good reason. As a nonhuman biracial character (written by a biracial author), Ren is constantly struggling with her identity, willing to do whatever is necessary to find the acceptance she craves. I found her to be well-realized and a refreshing break from “morally grey” characters who are mostly just made up of edgy quips.

Another way in which this story examines family and identity is through the relationship between Ren and her brother Neven. He’s almost the opposite of Ren, empathetic towards any living creature and considered by most as too soft to be a true Reaper. Though they don’t always see eye to eye (far from it), Ren will do anything to protect Neven, but, as siblings often do, she’s the one hurting him more often than not. Their differing reactions to entering this unknown world, and the strife that it creates between them, is a compelling part of the narrative.

Though I loved the entire book, what really made The Keeper of Night stand out to me was the ending. There are several twists, the first of which I had reason to guess at, but after that I was entirely blown away. All of Ren’s decisions have consequences, and the ending tracked well with the rest of the book in a way that I found incredibly satisfying. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the second and final book in this duology.

Even if you’re not a fan of most YA fantasy, I’d recommend giving this one a try, assuming the concept sounds interesting to you and you don’t mind a main character who has the tendency to be selfish and cruel. If you do decide to pick it up, the audiobook is an excellent choice.
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My Review: What A Solid Debut!

The Pros: What Worked For Me

I loved the Japanese mythology that was central to this story. From Shinigami to other demons, I was enthralled!

The theme about identity resonated with me; Ren struggles throughout the story to find a place where she is accepted and I felt that deeply.

The sibling relationship was wonderfully developed. The author captures the complexities of it, without making it cheesy.

The Cons: What I Didn’t Like

I wasn’t a fan of the romance. The bond was formed too quickly for my liking and it progressed very rapidly at the very end.

I wanted more mythological immersion, with more demons being introduced!

Overall, this is a pretty solid debut with many positives. I can’t wait to read the sequel (and conclusion) to this engrossing series!
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First, I would like to thank NetGalley for providing me with the audiobook! I truly enjoyed the narration, and I will be using their app more often since it's very user friendly. 

Even though I enjoyed the book, I have to say it's too long for its own good. The pace was extremely slow which made it a bit boring to read. The fact that Baker integrated lots of elements of Japanese culture didn't help either: there were so many things to memorize, so many creatures to know, it was hard to keep up. Maybe I felt like this because I was listening to it rather than reading, but I was constantly feeling overloaded with information.
That's why I DnFed it: it became too overwhelming. I love fantasy and complicated worlds, but I like to have time to get to know the characters and the world. I don't enjoy going back and forth so I can remember who was who and what was what. I think fantasy authors must introduce things slowly and in a way that makes sense, so the reader doesn't get lost.

On a more positive note, I really enjoyed Baker's style and will be giving her a second chance in the future.
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I feel so conflicted with this one. Let’s start off with the positives.

Objectively speaking this story is incredibly well written. The world, the atmosphere and the folklore are intriguing and add a level of depth to the story. I don’t know a lot about Japanese folklore but the way it was incorporated into the story had me intrigued and wanting to know more. The atmosphere had a spoopy vibe that made it a perfect read for the fall season.

My favorite parts of the story were how the author handled themes of racism, xenophobia, and identity. Kylie Lee Baker handled these difficult themes with nuance and care. Ren is half British and half Japanese, as a result, she’s constantly seen as an outsider in London, she’s also bullied and abused by other reapers. This leaves Ren with a lifetime of trauma that she struggles to deal with. Hoping to find a home, somewhere she’ll be accepted, she travels to Japan. Unfortunately, she is still viewed as an outsider because she’s only half Japanese. Ren’s desperate need for a home and acceptance is palpable, which is what makes her such a well thought out character (even though I didn’t agree with a lot of things she did). 

With that being said, the most conflicting aspect of the story for me are the characters, particularly Ren. She has suffered through a lot of trauma throughout her entire life so it makes sense that she’s a little bit jaded. Ren is stubborn, selfish, through most of this book, but the thing is… she’s self-aware. She knows all of her flaws and as the story progresses she becomes less ashamed and even starts to embrace her negative attributes. 

The reason I feel so conflicted is because I’m a character based reader, and I need to feel some form of attachment to the characters I read about. However, good character development, in my opinion, is when a character does something you don’t like, but you can still understand their reasoning for it. I think it’s one of the reasons why I feel so conflicted about the story. I hated nearly every decision Ren made but I could understand where she was coming from and at times I could sympathize with her. Which made certain parts of the story infuriating.

Ren felt more so morally pitch black than morally grey. The author isn’t afraid to show her protagonist in an “unflattering” light. Oftentimes YA characters can feel like Marry Sue self-inserts, but Ren is complex in a way that I find rare, especially for YA.

Overall, I think this is a strong debut and worth the read if you enjoy morally grey characters, Japanese folklore, and themes of racial identity.
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"I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
I listened to 30% of the audio version, but was still not engaged in the book. All of the first third felt like introduction and world building. The pace of the story telling was not quick enough for me. 
On a positive note it was written well, it was recorded well, and I was seeing some character development. It was probably intentionally slow as an echo of how long the characters lives are, but I just couldn't get into it.
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This was a very interesting read and it was the perfect fantasy mixed spooky for Halloween time. This was such a complex book and I loved it a lot. The characters were really well written and the plot was super interesting. I loved Ren and Neven and I loved seeing their relationship grow and change throughout the novel. This book has such a strong female main character, Ren is such a complex character and I really felt for her so many times. Neven is such a cutie (in the way that he is young and super sweet to Ren most of the time lol) and I loved him, I'm so glad Ren had him. Hiro was an interesting character, not my fave but definitely played an important part in the book. The writing in this book was so well done and beautiful. I loved the inspiration from Japanese folklore. It was an amazing adventure novel in such a fun historical fantasy world. The plot twist/cliffhanger at the end is leaving me wanting more and I can't wait for book two! The narrator of this book is wonderful and their voice was perfect for the vibes of this story. An amazing choice
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I loved this book! The narrator does a wonderful job bringing to life the characters and immersing you into the story. 

From the get-go, we see just how brutal this historical fantasy is. Ren Scarborough is brutal as we watch her extract a soul no fuss no muss. She's set up as morally grey only caring about her brother, Neven. After being assaulted by her fellow reapers, Ren loses control of her Shinigami powers. She's forced to run away and her plan to leave the country becomes a forced reality. Together with her brother, they race across the world to avoid the death sentence by the Reaper society. Ren is given a task in order to earn her place as a Shinigami. 

This entire story was dark and captivating. I was immediately captured by the world building and the characters throughout the story. If you're looking for a dark, fantastical Japanese myth based story, this has everything. 

Thank you so much DreamScape Media for an ARC audiobook. I really enjoyed it through and through and can't wait to read more about Ren's adventures!
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This book is 12.5 hours long, but you would know that once you dive in, it full throttle going forward, with a couple spots that let you catch your breath for only a moment. 
This is then turned past 10 in the last quarter of the book, so much so I found myself re-listening to chapters and segments over and over again to make sure I really understood what happened.

I loved Ren as a character, she felt a lot darker then the typical protagonist. Paired with her relationship with her brother, Neven. Their deep love for one another is beautiful, but also how he works as her own Jiminy Cricket.

While I can't comment heavily on the end of the book without revealing all to much. But it is like Baker took everything that could have been stretched out into a second book and folded it into such a tiny package that it really does jump out at you when you're not expecting it.
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

Disclaimer: There may be spoilers ahead.
Wow wow wow. What a journey this book has been. From cute sibling bonds, a handsome stranger being kind for no reason to darkness, despair and sorrow. I absolutely loved every single thing about this book and that was what astonished me most because never have I ever felt this way for a book before. It was more dark and eerie than light and fun but it was bit of the latter in the begining of the book. Other reasons why you should pick up this book is because it has a solid beginning and I guess a few of you, like me, could relate with Ren not fitting anywhere. She was an outcast, an in-between like some of us and this fact was so accurately described I was on the verge of tears. The plot twist? Why is no one talking about it? And can we also talk about Neven? He forever deserved better. Spoilers: Yes, I kinda liked Hiro at the beggining but what is a relationship with secrets? Nothing, for me. And he was abusive towards the end so yeah I hated him and didn't feel sorry for him. Okay, I may be lying I did feel him for having an abusive mother but that didn't excuse HIM for being abusive. So back to Neven, I hope he's alive in book 2 or else I will never live in peace. All in all, go read this book folks if you wanna have your heart broken! And also, if you're reading this Kylie, thank you for this book even though it broke me!

4.5 stars!💖
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4/4.5 I enjoyed this dark adventure about death. I have no read much on Japanese folklore but I really enjoyed this telling/retelling. Made me I terested in more from this author and this type of mythology
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I was really disappointed in this book. I am usually really into books like this with that sort of darker undertone but for some reason this just didn't work for me. I know a lot of other people really loved this so maybe I am just missing something but I was just bored during a lot of this book. There was no solid reason why either. I would still recommend this book cause I'm sure anyone who enjoys this sort of fantasy would love this book.
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Listen, I don't think this book is bad. I am just not in the mood for it, despite it being a book about reapers and shinigami and it's currently October. I've read the third chapter 4 times as I wasn't able to focus on it. While I made it past the third, I find myself easily loosing focus on the following chapters as well. I'm lost again in the 5th chapter.

I think this book will hit the mark for many readers. Some have commented on the heavy info-dumping in the first few chapters of the book, which I think is what is mostly causing a struggle for me. I can't get over this hurdle right now, and for those who get through it will find a refreshing and original YA fantasy. The blend of British reapers and Japanese Shinigami with a focus on Japanese folklore in Japan sounds wonderful. But I need to set this book aside. I hope one day to return to it, but for now I need to move on.
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3.5 stars, rounded up

The Keeper of Night told the story about Ren -- born half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami -- who was reminded every day that she wasn't a full Reaper, despite collecting souls for centuries. When the chance arose after an accidental altercation, she flees (with her half-brother) to Japan to find her mother and claim her Shinigami inheritance. However, she soon finds that even those in Japan don't view her as Japanese, despite that the identity is all she was seen as by British Reapers. Determined to prove herself, she goes on a quest to find and kill three dangerous Yokai for the Goddess of Death.

I was intrigued by the story immediately. I was first captured by Ren's stubborn spirit: even though the cards were stacked against her, she still fought on. She wanted so desperately to fit in somewhere, but neither half of her heritages accepted her fully, which was heartbreaking. However, Ren was resilient and tough, and I liked her character...mostly. However, she soon let her sharp exterior bleed into her interior, and she became cruel (or perhaps was always so). I liked her story arc, even though it was frustrating. I also really liked her brother, who was perhaps my favorite character; he was sweet, if naive.

I knew this was the first book in a series, but it seemed that the story line was wrapping up pretty nicely...until it wasn't. That ending. Oof. Now I'm curious to see where the next book will go.
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