Small Gods of Calamity

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Pub Date Mar 04 2024 | Archive Date May 31 2024

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A tightly woven blend of myth, magic, and the ties of a found family.

Ghosts that speak in smoke. Spirits with teeth like glass. A parasitic, soul-eating spirit worm has gone into a feeding frenzy, but all the Jong-ro Police Department’s violent crimes unit sees is a string of suicides. Except for Kim Han-gil, Seoul’s only spirit detective. He’s seen this before. He’ll do anything to stop another tragedy from happening, even if that means teaming up with Shin Yoonhae, the man Han-gil believes is responsible for the horrifying aftermath of his mother’s last exorcism.

In their debut novella, Sam Kyung Yoo weaves a tale of mystical proportions that's part crime-thriller, part urban fantasy.

A tightly woven blend of myth, magic, and the ties of a found family.

Ghosts that speak in smoke. Spirits with teeth like glass. A parasitic, soul-eating spirit worm has gone into a feeding frenzy...

Advance Praise

Praise for Small Gods of Calamity

"An expertly-layered detective mystery filled with folkloric spirits, rich atmosphere, and a pulsing, emotional core, Small Gods of Calamity stays riveting from intriguing opening to beautiful conclusion. Yoo’s unforgettable debut is a wonderfully queer exploration of grief, trauma, and reckoning with the past that will leave your heart aching in the best way."

- Kelsea Yu, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Bound Feet and It's Only a Game

“SMALL GODS OF CALAMITY is a refreshing urban occult detective story about imperfect heroes and confronting the roots of trauma. It is a tale of aching quiet beauty led by broken souls, yet it is also one of warmth and reconciliation.”

—AI JIANG, Nebula finalist and author of Linghun and I Am AI

"Small Gods of Calamity is a gripping, absolutely un-put-downable novella. Yoo hooks you from the first page to the last with a riveting supernatural murder mystery that plays out partly in our everyday world and partly in the perilous world of spirits and ghosts. In the midst of soul-destroying danger and darkness, the main characters are infused with a bright and gentle light, and I hope this isn’t the last time I get to meet Detective Kim Han-gil."

—Maria Haskins, author of Wolves & Girls and Six Dreams About the Train

“Yoo’s unique take on spirits and possession, coupled with an array of complex characters, makes this one of the best urban fantasies I’ve ever read. It is a poignant tale about the price of being a hero and how salvation can be found through the people you least expect.”

—Marina Garrido, reviewer for The Sinister Scoop and Associate Editor for Hedone Books.

Praise for Small Gods of Calamity

"An expertly-layered detective mystery filled with folkloric spirits, rich atmosphere, and a pulsing, emotional core, Small Gods of Calamity stays riveting from...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781953736284
PRICE $9.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

The first chapter got me hooked and interested in knowing more about the story and how the magic and spirit perception works.

The mc made me think of John Constantine, was he the inspiration for this character?

I learned a lot about East-Asian culture as well, the author mentions overworking, mental health & other stuff.

It's a quick, enjoyable read. I definitely see this story having a prequel to explore more about the relationships the characters have or a story about the gods..

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idk what i was expecting when i requested this ... but oh man this was GOOD. good as in i read it in just over 24 hours despite having assignments to turn in and other things to do.

i really enjoyed reading about korean culture, as well as the different myths and talismans that were used in the story. i find other cultures’ beliefs fascinating, and this was no different.

kim han-gil was a strong main character, and his status/reputation definitely added to the story. shin yoonhae had so much depth for a side character introduced a little later in such a short book. i loved them both, and i found their relationship/dynamic intriguing, especially given their history.

i will say the “mystery” aspect of this was a bit lacking for me. it was really easy to figure out and a bit anticlimactic.

overall i really loved this! a quick read still full of depth, with something for everyone to love.

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A snappy urban fantasy with thriller elements, Small Gods of Calamity interweaves East Asian spiritual practices with a unique tale about parasitic possession and trauma coming to a head from two very different perspectives.

The book primarily follows Kim Han-gil, a detective working in Seoul with a side gig of trying to exorcise soul-eating worms. As a protagonist, he's fairly lovable, with a matter-of-fact attitude that can border on endearingly comedic. To some who are a bit more picky with these sorts of characters, he may border a bit on annoying, with his brash almost lone wolf attitude and burning hatred for a guy he met once as a kid that can definitely feel irrational at times, but I never found it to be a bad thing, the plot moved forward quickly because of his actions, and I never felt that lull common in the middle of many books where the protagonist needs to do something but just... isn't.

One of the highest praises I have of the novella is that it knows exactly when to slow things down, draw us into a flashback or switch perspectives to Yoonhae, who by virtue of being much more quiet and careful, slows the chapter down a little bit and take more things in. Both of these things can be difficult to balance, as said before, especially flashbacks, but they never felt distracting, providing important contextual information with each one. Second only to this is the descriptions of everyone's souls, which felt reminiscent of arguing with fellow synesthesia-having friends about the colors, tastes, sounds and smells of whatever we could think of, a very specific feeling, but one I don't think I've seen much in any media.

The primary complaint I have is the characters never quite felt real. They weren't the writing equivalents of plastic dolls by any means, and can still evoke visceral reactions in times of great emotion, but they definitely behaved in a way that was just out of reach of perfectly realistic. Too energetic, too subdued, or the conversation just didn't quite flow exactly how it actually would had it been real. This isn't a story ruining critique, of course, but someone looking for that should be aware before coming into it. The only other frustration I sort of had with the book was how little I still felt I seemed to understand the background information when all was said and done. I kept checking to see if maybe there was a first book in the series I missed with the missing context, but didn't seem to find any. If a sequel is in the works to explain it though, I would definitely consider picking it up.

Additionally, I think if you're looking for a thriller or any sort of mystery, rather than fantasy, you may wish to skip this one. It's definitely thrilling in the interesting with plenty of action sense, but there isn't much of a... finding the killer type deal in here. It gets worked out fairly quickly and the rest of the book is mostly just dealing with the fallout.

Overall, though, if you're looking for a fantasy with focus on East Asian beliefs, a unique take on the soul and possession, a touching tale on working through trauma, or even just a comfortingly large amount of queer characters (even without romance) within one book, I'd definitely check this one out. It's unlikely to disappoint.

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I absolutely devoured this book. I ended up not reading it for a good bit around the halfway mark because I didn't want it to end. Strictly speaking, this book is more of a 4 star in quality, but I gave it a 5 for the unadulterated enjoyment.

The dynamic between Han-gil and Yoonhae was addictive and gripping. The layers of guilt and history and connections were tangled up and woven together like a cord that tied me to this book. Experiencing the different sensations associated with spirit energy was an interesting take. As a hobby perfume collector the smells were great to read, and experiencing Yoonhae's description of all the textures he senses from spirit energy made really feel (lol) for him. In addition, it made me *really* invested in Yoonhae and Han-gil's relationship. If you enjoy certain types of smell based romance genre, this is for you.

I went into this having a good baseline for general East Asian spiritualism and I like how Korean, Japanese and Chinese were mixed and matched. If you've watched the k-drama Revenant, this is like a non-horror and slightly more juvenile counterpart with the same level of paranormal detective work.

That segues me into some critiques. The mystery was definitely obvious and I had hoped for more of a twist or a bit more investigative work. Junhee being the host was the only thing that made sense, so I would have liked to have the mystery pivot more towards why the possession affects Yoonhae the way it does. I wish someone would've mentioned or tossed out a theory on why it only seems to affect Yoonhae with sense deprivation while the others get hit with bad eyesight.

As a metaphor for isolation from family and society I think the worm does a good job. But I think it would have been more impactful if we understood Junhee a bit more.

I like that her trans identity is integral to her story but does not define her. We can infer a lot about Junhee's life based on her circumstances, but it all feels tell rather than show. Like, if it weren't Junhee, anyone else would've been a target for an angry worm if they had transphobic parents, a shitty boss and an abusive partner. I wish there was more development or meditation on her, and with all the short chapters and random POV switching, I wish we got just one chapter with her either as a prologue or thoughts mid-worm transfer.

While I accepted the POV switching because Yoonhae is a delight, the first chapter as Yoonhae irked me because it was jarring after only being with Han-gil, and it felt like a contrivance to show Junhee's perspective without having it be filtered through Yoonhae speaking to Han-gil. While I understand it was important to establish his skills to show what spiritual energy felt like to him, having that one specific chapter with Yoonhae POV did not feel necessary and I think replacing it with a prologue in Junhee POV would have served the same purpose.

That being said, I loved the time with Yoonhae for all the reasons cited before. Seeing his first time meeting Han-gil from his POV really hit. However I would have liked his chapters when possessed to be more impactful on how ~nothing~ it all was.

I cant parse how much of this is critique and how much of it is hope for a sequel because I just wish we got to see more of Han-gil and Yoonhae interacting both before and after the worming. I enjoyed both of them as characters and their dynamic was tantalizing and left me wanting so much more. Surely there's more worms out there right?

Other stuff I wanted to mention but couldn't fit properly
- Writing is repetitive at times. Every time the Rainbow Hotel is mentioned it is mentioned with a full breathe of repetition. It is mentioned a lot and each repetition feels like it has to recap information we got from two previous iterations
- Going in straight with the honorifics without explanations in a footnote or something may be confusing to an audience not familiar with them
- Blurb mentions found family. This is nowhere to be seen, Han-gil and Azuna basically are siblings and Han-gil and Yoonhae have something else going on.

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This was a quick and fun read. I enjoyed the mystery and the fantasy aspect. I look forward to reading more works from this author

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This is a fantasy murder mystery story set nicely in Korea and seems to be based on Korean mysticism. A Police detective with real life experience of human devouring demon worms is shunned as a dangerous crank in the Police department. But he can sense these monsters and knows the truth. He may be the only thing stopping so many others dying. A fun, fairly short, satisfying urban fantasy read. Thank you to Interstellar Press and NetGalley for the ARC. The views expressed are all mine, freely given.

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Thank you NetGalley for a free e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

"Small Gods of Calamity" by Sam Kyung Yoo is a compelling novella that masterfully intertwines urban fantasy with a gripping crime thriller. Set in Seoul, the story follows Kim Han-gil, the city's only spirit detective, as he confronts a series of chilling suicides linked to a parasitic, soul-eating spirit worm. The narrative is a rich blend of myth, magic, and the complexities of found family.

Yoo's storytelling is tight and evocative, bringing to life a world where ghosts speak in smoke and spirits have teeth like glass. The supernatural elements are seamlessly integrated into the urban landscape of Seoul, creating a setting that is both familiar and eerily otherworldly. The portrayal of the spirit worm as a malevolent entity feeding on souls adds a haunting and urgent dimension to the plot.

The character of Kim Han-gil is skillfully developed, with his past experiences and personal demons driving the narrative. His reluctant partnership with Shin Yoonhae, whom he suspects to be involved in his mother's tragic exorcism, adds layers of tension and complexity to the story. The dynamics between these two characters are fraught with suspicion, resentment, and an underlying sense of shared purpose, making their interaction one of the novella's most compelling aspects.

Yoo's writing is crisp and immersive, balancing the intricate details of the supernatural with the gritty realities of a police investigation. The novella's pacing is brisk, maintaining suspense and intrigue throughout. The blending of genres works exceptionally well, offering readers the thrills of a crime story with the imaginative richness of fantasy.

However, the novella format, while effective in delivering a concise and intense narrative, may leave some readers wishing for more depth and development, particularly in the world-building and backstories of the characters.

Content warnings for themes of suicide, spirit possession, and supernatural violence are appropriate. "Small Gods of Calamity" will appeal most to readers who enjoy urban fantasy, crime thrillers, and stories that weave mythology into modern settings.

In conclusion, "Small Gods of Calamity" by Sam Kyung Yoo is a gripping and imaginative novella that offers a unique blend of urban fantasy and crime thriller. Its compelling characters, rich mythology, and fast-paced narrative make it a standout read for fans of the genres.

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A different story with a Korean setting. A korean detective hunts down evil spirits or small gods of calamity as they are called at his culture. I liked that the author revealed the pieces of the puzzle gradually. I also liked how the author dealt with concepts like forgiveness, guilt and acceptance.

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This novella has a fascinating plot drawing inspiration from Asian folklore, and the characters' backstories were explored very well. Even though this is a novella, the characters don't feel one-dimensional. The writing for the action scenes could be a little more engaging.

Will be looking forward to more stories with these characters, if written. Thank you Interstellar Flight Press and NetGalley for the ARC.

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To start off with this book is a quick read the chapter are not very long. I liked how the author incorporated explaining the Korean terms in the book. I enjoyed the relationship development and growth that you see between Kim Han-gil and Shin Yoonhae. Reading the story I almost hoped that these two would get together, the end of the story gives me hope that they do. I hope there is a second book to follow and do see what next adventure that Han-gil will get into .

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*Thanks to Netgalley and Interstellar Flight Press for a eArc in exchange for a honest review*

You ever finish a book and just want to read it again? Well, 'Small Gods of Calamity' is the kind of story that will stay with me for a while, and I'm happy to say it's one of my favorite books of this year.
In just 150 pages, this novella is tightly packed with action and a rich world-building filled with dangerous spirits, a series of strange deaths and the practitioners who will try to stop them. But it's also a story about grief, family, love and forgiveness, and so much more than that. I think those themes were handled very well and there were a crucial component to the story.

Right from the start, Kim Han-gil had my heart. He's a lonely man, trying to make things right, even if he's disliked by his fellow detectives and practitioners. It was interesting to see him navigate both worlds, especially because he was such an interesting character. I loved to see his connection to other characters help him grow and change to the better. It was really interesting to read and sometimes heartbreaking. Shin Yoonhae was wonderful as well, I wanted to hug him so bad. I honestly wish the story were longer to see what happens to them after (and to the rest of the cast).

I mention the practitioners already: they're such a fascinating part of the story. People who are able to sense spiritual energy all do it in different ways. It reminded me of synesthesia: for Han-gil it manifests itself through smell and sounds, in such a vivid way. I loved reading those descriptions, and it was very interesting to also learn more about Chinese, Japanese and Korean mythologies as well. Because those are used by practitioners for their practice with the spirits.

There is so much more than I want to say but I don't want to give to much away. I'll just add that I was so happy for the multiple queer rep: Han-gil is bi and ace, and other characters are queer. Transidentity is also explored. But it's not just that: anxiety and disability are also important themes to the story.

To conclude, I'll definitely buy a physical copy of this book, and I can't wait to see what Sam Kyung Yoo will write in the future!

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Kim Han-Gil is a detective in the Jung-ro Police Department, and when they receive multiple death that are seemingly suicides, Kim Han-Gil is the only one who can tell that these are actually the doings of a parasitic, soul-eating spirit worm, and it’s up to him to make sure the spirit worm is stopped.

This story was unlike anything I have ever read before, which is honestly an achievement in and of itself. It’s a wonderfully blend of genres with everything from crime/thriller to fantasy. I can’t believe that this is Sam Kyung Yoo’s debut novella.

This is definitely a novella to read if you’re interested in urban fantasy thrillers!

Big thanks to Netgalley, Interstellar Flight Press and the author Sam Kyung Yoo for allowing me to read an E-Arc of this very interesting novella.

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I loved this book!
It's like watching one of those supernatural K-Dramas, you're sucked right into the story, immersed in events, and then you can't get out, so you binge watch - in this case, read - the whole thing! From ambiance to plot, backstory to atmosphere, it was so immersive and easy to read. But the best were the characters, for me, I loved them, especially Yoonhae, who I just wanted to cuddle and protect. I also loved the diversity present in the cast, and the way it just blends, without the author throwing it at the readers' face - they just are, because diversity is a part of nature and humanity and we just ARE. The bit where Junhee's mother sends her flowers to the hospital made me tear up, I'll be honest, and Kim's realisations about his own mother were somewhat heartwrenching - though I would have liked some previous foreshadowing of it to have happened prior, because it felt a little too convenient, that he'd realise something like that at that moment and then acknowledge he'd always knew, deep down. But other than that small detail, this was an easy five star read that had me hooked from the beginning.

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The magic system in this novella is so cool! Basically, people who have the ability to sense and interact with the spirit world all sense it differently. For some people, it's a physical feeling. For others, it's a sound. For Han-gil, it's a smell. We get two POVs for this story, so we get a little sampling of how this impacts the characters' worldviews.

I loved a lot of the moving parts of this story... there's trans rep, some discussion of Korean Sign Language, nuanced family relationships, adoption, mental health, and more.

I did feel like the pacing was a little uneven, and especially in the finale I had some questions about the logistics of the story. (They're able to move the date of the exorcism up from when it's originally planned, but then suddenly they're super short on time even though nothing else has changed? Huh? Can't explain that more without including spoilers....) Certain things get brought up repeatedly while others get glossed over. I have some mixed feelings about the portrayal of possession and how it relates to disability and marginalization/transphobia, but only in terms of certain nuances. Overall, I think those topics were handled with intention, I just felt like certain discussions of those issues were muddy at times.

Actually, I want to clarify this because I think it's important, so spoilers incoming. First, one of the characters is trans. I love how the author handles this, and their bio seems to indicate that they are nonbinary, so I'm not sure how much of this is own voices, but either way I loved it. What I wasn't so sure about is the relationship between the spirit worm that possesses her. This probably has more to do with the fact that the spirit worm isn't entirely consistent, either as a metaphor or an in-world mechanic. Does it just amp up the negative emotions inside its host? Maybe, but then when it possesses Yoonhae, and it doesn't seem to have that effect. Unless his toxic trait is dissociation? And if that's the case, why are the mechanics SO DIFFERENT for him than for everyone else? His 'physical disabilities' come and go based on his possession, and I don't love what that implies about disability in the larger world. Then again, the way he and Han-gil talk about KSL suggests that the author isn't intentionally linking possession and disability as 'punishments.' So the worm fills one character with violent rage--yes, against her abusers, but I also don't love the narrative of the only trans woman being a danger to herself and others--and gives one other person short-term physical disabilities that are cured by exorcism. And yet, the author and the narrative both center these individuals as rounded, sympathetic characters, so... yeah I would have liked this to be clearer, but obviously since I'm talking about it in this level of detail, I liked it enough to engage with it. The symbolism just felt underbaked, which is one reason why the story seemed rushed in places. I wouldn't usually put this level of detail and spoiler into a review but it's something I was trying to make sense of throughout the novella. Congratulations for this being my first review I'll have have to flag on GoodReads for spoilers.

Anyway! All of that said, as a reader I'm usually okay with some plot holes so long as the characters are great, and I really liked both Han-gil and Yoonhae and their story arcs. Yoonhae just needs a hug. T_T I liked where this story went even if I felt that the symbolism could have been clearer. Thank you to Interstellar Flight Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read this as an ARC; I'm sorry I wrote a critical essay but at least you can tell the my review is my own and being left voluntarily, right?

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“Small Gods of Calamity” by Sam Kyung Yoo is a fun to read speculative fiction that perfectly merges the hardboiled world of police investigation with the supernatural world of ghosts, magic, and evil spirits. For a 154 page novella, this work of speculative fiction has a very impressive scope. The hero is a South Korean detective who is also a powerful psychic with a very traumatic background. He communicates with ghosts and spirits, performs magic, and saves citizens from horrors that ordinary people do not even known exist. If this isn’t enough, Yoo also provides a complex and fascinating back story for our hero, and continues to thrill readers with complex South Korean (and even a bit of Japanese) mythology and culture.

I will keep an eye out for more of Sam Kyung Yoo’s writing, and I really hope he writes many more novels in this exciting world that he has created in “Small Gods of Calamity.” The prequels that are hinted about in this work sound totally awesome.

I thank Sam Kyung Yoo and Interstellar Flight Press for kindly providing a temporary electronic review copy of this work.

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I'd rate this a 4.5/5 ⭐️.

Things I liked:
1. We went straight into the plot, didn't spend time on several introduction chapters but it was still paced wonderfully.
2. The characters each had their own emotional depth and when we changed perspectives it gave better insight and leaves the reader thinking
3. Mythology

Things that I wish were included:
1. I don't know how to pronounce some names and really wished there was a index almost at the end or beginning on how to pronounce the names.
2. It would have been nice to have an epilogue to see what the dynamics of the characters are after the events of this book, do they speak to each other? Are they friends?

Overall, a enjoyable quick read that I would recommend others to read.

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Thank you to Interstellar Flight Press for giving me the opportunity to be involved in the ARC process of this novella.

Small Gods of Calamity is a short but very packed Korean inspired urban fantasy read that follows Kim Han-gil, a spirit detective with a pretty bad reputation with not only the police force, but with the spiritual world.

The story firstly shows it thriller mystery roots as the murder case turns into something that is deeply rooted in Han-gil's past, however goes into topics of mental health, suicide, disabilities and a very subtle LGBTQ+ romance that especially, the latter, not only had me pleasantly surprised, but had me smiling with every moment that they were together trying to get along. But overall, these themes add so much to the main lot without actually overwhelming and diverting it elsewhere to pad out the time needed to read it.

Han-gil's character in particular was one of the most human characters I have ever read. It feels like he was an actual human being and you feel his genuine emotions as he's progressing through the story. What initially felt like a 28 year old man with a veteran lone wolf air to him, turned into something real with guilt, confusion and acceptance over what his life has became.

There had been a couple minor spelling grammar errors in chapters 10 and 11 but I promise for anyone who wants to give this novella a shot, please do! I would have never thought that so much meaning and emotion could be packed in under 200 pages, but Sam Kyung Yoo accomplished that and so much more.

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I picked this book up on a total whim, but I am so glad I did. The story was tightly woven, bringing together pieces from the past and present to create a rich novel with believable characters. The writing was smooth and the mythology of the world was really interesting to dive into.

I really appreciated the authors clear familiarity with South Korean culture norms, which reflected in the story, as well as their multi-dimensional representation of queer folks. The central themes of forgiveness and responsibility were explored in clever and nuanced ways, leaving the reader with a satisfying and thought-provoking story at the end.

Overall, I could not recommend this book enough to others!

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Sam Kyung Yoo has done an amazing job quickly grabbing my attention and keeping me engaged throughout this mystery thriller. This was a very easy and fast-paced read. I love that I got to experience Korean culture and folklore. The plot is great the characters are well written. I love that we can acknowledge disability, mental health, and LGBTQIA+ and not feel like it's the only point of the book. Just like everyday life, these things are all a part of it but are not the main focus. The characters personality is not centered around being disabled or a member of the LQBTQIA community.
If youre lookong for a little bit of magic in your life I would highly recommend reading small gods of calamity. Immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the mystery.

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The plot of ‘Small Gods of Calamity’ hooked me right away, throwing me headlong into a world of magic and mystery, and leading me through elements of Korean culture and mythology that were a wonder to explore. Our main character, Kim Han-gil, is a delight. Hilarious and human in turns, he’s a spirit detective, he works with magic, sees ghosts, and controls powers that I cannot even begin to fathom, and yet he is so incredibly human and so incredibly relatable that I immediately felt like I knew him. He felt like a friend.

It's also so refreshing and comforting to open up a book that speaks so frankly about subjects that I usually find people tip-toeing around, even in books where they are key factors in the plot. Sam Kyung Yoo is unafraid to have their characters talk about sexuality, mental health issues, disabilities, trauma, and so many other topics that I find are often discussed either like they’re something to be ashamed of, or something that needs fixing. In ‘Small Gods of Calamity,’ these topics are handled neither like the author wants to jump over the topics as quickly as possible, nor in a way that is overdone and preachy. Having a disability, having mental health issues, or being a member of the LGBTQ+ community are everyday elements of people’s lives the world over, and the author does a phenomenal job of incorporating these aspects of life into their characters, and into their character’s dialogue in a way that feels real and honest. I’ve had these same, simple, honest conversations with my own friends, with colleagues and family members. Sam Kyung Yoo does an excellent job of representing these elements in a way that bashes you over the head with how normal it is.

And of course I can’t forget the magic. Ghosts, spirits, talismans, worms. The real power in this book is the way reading about the magic happening invites readers to see what Han-gil is seeing, hear the water droplets, feel the sunshine on their skin, smell the salt water smell of the sea. There is atmosphere and energy in reading a book like this. The use of imagery involving all of the senses, inviting you to feel what the characters feel, smell what they smell, taste what they taste-- it pulled me in and then swallowed me whole.

‘Small Gods of Calamity’ introduced me to the writing of Sam Kyung Yoo, and I’m so excited to see what they will come up with next.

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Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy

Romance: LGBTQIA+ (but not the main focus)

**I had the privilege to have an arc of this book thanks to NetGalley**

🪷 preface — Sam Kyung Yoo’s navigates the mystery and fantasy with a unique less that highlights aspects of the Asian spiritual world in a way that feels like a breath of fresh air, their use of complex character building in combination with this fantastical world making you want more.

📚 overall thoughts — This book is gripping. I was reeled in the instant I opened to the first page, the mystery behind the characters and the world capturing my attention with Yoo’s writing style. The story itself is fast-paced and touches my heart dearly. It is full of angst and suspense that just keeps you glued in for hours on end. It is quite an easy read and is very much a story that is easy to follow. The character relationships and how they interact with the world seem to be one of the best things about this book. Overall, a very solid fantasy mystery/thriller that has a strong Asian LGBTQIA + voice that needs to be heard and seen by more.

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I ended up loving this book! I wish there was a bit more characterization but the pacing was great, and it starts off which a bang, and I loved how quickly that grabbed my attention. It kept me reading for much longer than I should have in a sitting, but I really enjoyed it! I honestly cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next! I will say it did read, at least for me, somewhere between YA and adult fantasy, not quite either but still a great read. The mix of mythology and thriller ended up working very well!

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Small Gods of Calamity follows supernatural detective Han-gil as he follows a spirit that took the life of his mother years ago. He’s seen as an oddball by the rest of the police force, and is actively avoided by most, so he leans in his adopted sister, another practitioner of the supernatural, to help. But when she is too far away to help with his next case, she sends help in an unwelcome form: the boy who, years ago, his mother healed, in turn passing the spirit over which ultimately killed her. He has an affinity for detecting spirits and energies, and their forced companionship has Han-gil reassessing his feelings for him.

Kyung Yoo’s novella is a study in how to set up a story and characters in a short time, where each word is essential and because this was done so well the reader is able to connect deeply with what is happening even in a short time. Even though a lot of the background to the story came from the internal thoughts of the main character, it’s balanced with enough dialogue and sharing of the world that it doesn’t feel like a ton of info dumping.

My only complaint about this story is that there isn’t more of it! Though well written, I wanted to see more of Han-gil’s story and am eager to see what comes next in the fine line he treads between the real and supernatural. It was a great first taste to what is hopefully an expanded world and story in the future!

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I couldn't have started my reading year any better. Small Gods of Calamity is pure perfection!

The novella is mainly told by Han-gil's pov, but we do have 2 (I think?!) chapters told by Yoonhae's perspective. Han-gil is an excellent main character to follow. He's highly intelligent, very resourceful, compassionate, and with some big traumas that keep him up at night. I do love competent characters, and Han-gil embodies that so much. He's creative and invents new methods and new items all the time, which he definitely deserves so much more credit for. However, he's being ridiculed and has been the center of many rumors that have tainted his reputation at his job and in the spiritualistic world, ever since his ex-partner stumbled upon an exorcism and hurt himself and Han-gil. I loved how the author portrayed Han-gil as a survivor with scars, both literal and metaphorical. He has nightmares and insecurities that stem from his past, but he still pushes through. He's kind but not social, and I found that so endearing. He's trying, okay? Talking to people isn't that easy lmao.

Did I mention that he's bi and asexual??? And it's not the main center of his life, just seamlessly part of his life?

Yoonhae is also a great character, and I wished for more chapters with his perspective. Well, I wish for more chapters of this story, in general, but Yoonhae's perspective is so different from Han-gil's. Yoonhae is light and calm, whereas Han-gil has a more intense warmth to him. Yoonhae deals with survivor's guilt and child's neglect, which don't allow him to see how great he truly is and how far he's come. He's sorry for bringing so much pain to Han-gil, and even his parents, even though it wasn't his fault. He's just so good, you know? Like purely, innocently good.

I loved both Han-gil and Yoonhae so much!! Though, I have to say that I loved everything about this novella a lot. The prose is precise and sharp with a crispiness that I miss a lot in fantasy books. It doesn't have that flowery prose that oftentimes makes me wonder what the author means lmao. It cuts to the point, and it is compelling. I couldn't stop reading even if I wanted to, and I certainly didn't want to! The worldbuilding is lush and fully vivid, and since this is only a novella, it's very impressive. The author explains about the spiritual world, the ghosts/spirits, and the worm spirit without making it an info dump. We're provided with all the information we need in the same crispy and precise prose, and I really liked it!

Another important element of the story was Han-gil's bond with his sister. They have such a deep love and deep understanding of each other that makes everyone in awe of it.

But what I didn't expect from a novella was the deep nuance and social commentary that came with it. I don't usually take quotes, but this novella is soo good, and it has resonated with me so much.

"She's my older sister," Han-gil says.
Wonshik blinks. "You were in speaking in Japanese, though."
Han-gil feels incredibly tired. "Yeah, because she's Japanese. I'm adopted."

You'd be surprised by how many assumptions people make and how often we are asked to explain our entire lifestory so others can understand it through their assumptions and curiosity. Something similar to the case above even happened when I was on vacation, as if our background is anyone's business....

"It's not like it's Yoonhae's responsibility to educate him or anything."

Some people who mean well sometimes believe that it's the authors' or other people's duty to explain and educate them on things they don't know much about, and while it's good that they wish to learn it, it's not others' job to educate them. Do your research and don't expect others to do it for you...

I loved this novella so much, and I wish it was a full-length book. It's become one of my favorite stories, and I already want a dozen fanfiction stories to be written for this. The characters, the prose, the setting (Seoul with a spiritual world!!!!!!), and the social commentary make this novella PERFECT! I loved everything about it. Please buy it!!!

And I definitely need to read anything this author has ever written and will ever write. Sam Kyung Yoo is a talent nobody wants to miss!

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I requested this book because it sounded like an interesting premise, but I could not anticipate how it would blow my expectations. This novella is an urban fantasy that intertwines east asian culture, a thriller murder mystery and parasitic monsters.

The supernatural elements are seamlessly integrated into the urban landscape of Seoul, creating a unique setting for Detective Kim Han-gil, a detective with a side-hustle of trying to exorcise soul eating parasitic worms that seem to be undetectable to anyone but him. He is both misunderstood in the magic community and at work, but he keeps trying to do the right thing and exorcise these demons. I knew I was going to like him once I read the last phrase of chapter 2:

“Han-gil just waves dismissively. He’s officially exhausted his communication stamina for the day."

The pace of the story is quite fast, as expected of a Novella that includes as much story and context as this one, but it has the right pacing overall. It slows down perfectly in the right moments to show us flashbacks of what brought the characters to this point. The change of pace and tone once we get a perspective from a different character was a really nice touch as well.

An honorable mention goes to the description of the different character’s souls and how they were perceived by different people who somehow could feel/see/hear/... them. It really made me wonder about the different colors, tastes, feelings and smells. More than that, the description of how they were perceived was detailed enough to paint the picture, but left just a bit of room for your mind to fill in the gaps.

The only complaint I have is the one I usually have with Novellas: I felt like it ended right when I was connecting with the characters. I wanted more: more about the Han-gil’s detective partner, who surprised him time and time again by not listening to rumors and trying to help; more about Azuna, as she seems like an amazing character that could be so much more; even more of Yoonhae and why he was able to do what he does.

My main critique and something to take into consideration is that this is a urban fantasy with a side of murder mystery. But it is just a side, as the entire thing is not the only focus of the story and it was quite predictable. However, the fantasy setting more than makes up for it!

Overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful story about grief, guilt, forgiveness and making peace with our own demons.

Thank you very much Interstellar Flight Press and NetGallery for providing me this ARC.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!

This was my first read of 2024, and I loved it! Knowing a tiny bit of Korean helps, but it's not needed to enjoy the story. This short novella fits a lot of world-building into it, and I was honestly fascinated by it the entire time. The characters felt unique and like real people; their motivations were easily understood. Han-gil is an interesting protagonist and it was fun to slowly learn more about him and his motivations as the story progressed. This story feels like something that would translate well into a television show or a webcomic! This plot is very well-paced, there were only one or two moments when it slowed down oddly, and even then it was barely noticeable. The story arc is well done and the ending wraps everything up. The only thing that hamstrings this story's weight a little bit is the length! I know it's a novella, so obviously it's going to be short. But I feel like it was longer, they could have had the time to flesh out the world a little bit more and explain precisely how some of the elements of the story work. However, this might just be because I want to know more details of how spirit sense works and why every person's way of perceiving spirit energy is different. I honestly really liked this story, and I really hope there's more written about these characters and this within this story world!

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Small Gods of Calamity by Sam Kyung Yoo is an upcoming gem that's not talked about enough. This book should be getting more press. It's urban fantasy with the backdrop of Korean folklore and set in modern day Seoul.

The novella opens with a suspicious death, with ghosts who can only speak using smoke, and with the smell of the ocean. Detective Kim Han-gil is haunted by the smell of the ocean and the past. He's doing his best but sinister worm spirits might get the better of him. To make matters worse, his sister, more of an expert in exorcising spirits than he is, is in Japan.

Small Gods of Calamity is a story about personal history and how it influences the present, about resentment and coming to a more nuanced understanding of the past. It's also about forgiveness and letting go, too. Most importantly it's about family and friendship and the family you find. There's great queer and ace rep, great friendships and found family dynamics.

I know this book hasn't even been released yet, but I really want a sequel. I want to spend more time with Han-gil, Azuna, and Yoonhae. I want more stories set in the world that Sam Kyung Yoo has created.

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I really liked this one, the concept was really interesting, was well written.

The story was fast paced and moved along nicely but I didn't feel like anything was missed.

I would love to see more stories based within this world and to see Han-gil's and Yoonhae's story relationship develop further in the future.

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Thank you netgalley for this ARC.

Small Gods of Calamity is a great little novella about a paranormal detective, a dangerous spirit, and the struggles of coping with grief. I honestly hadn’t really expected to like it as much as I did, but found myself immediately drawn into the story and world that Sam Kyung Yoo created.

Han-gil and Yoonhae were complex and relatable characters. I was completely drawn into the progression of their relationship as they learned how to heal and forgive. It felt very genuine.

Although, I think my favorite part of this book was the inclusion of actual Korean spiritual practices and tools. Most of these things are not explained in full detail, but I enjoyed looking up the unfamiliar items and rituals and did not feel it detracted from the story at all. If anything, it was a fun little scavenger hunt that helped me really get into their world of ghosts and mysticism.

Overall, I loved this book and would have been just as happy if it had been a full-length novel. I’m definitely hoping that this becomes a series so I can read more about the adventures of Han-gil and Yoonhae!

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First of all I need to say. Oh my god. This book was absolutely amazing. The writing was beautifully crafted and drew me in almost immediately. I practically couldn’t put it down.

The cast of characters are very likeable and feel very fleshed out. I can’t stress enough how well written I think this book is.

The deep Asian Influences in spirituality really shine in this story and seeing so many cultures blended together was very refreshing. I feel like I learned a lot, and also just enough to want to explore more aspects of things this novel touches on.

Personally, this reminded me of the video game GhostWire Tokyo, but in the best way imaginable. I’ve been craving a book with the same essence as that game and this novel certainly delivered that.

I think this was one of my top five favourite novels I’ve read this whole year, and I absolutely can’t wait to purchase a physical copy when it releases.

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Absolutely loved this novella - quick, character driven, and perfectly balanced, it was enough to be its own story and just enough to pull the reader into a world with so much more to offer. Can’t wait for more from this author.

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