For the first post today, I am reviewing ‘The Night Parade of 100 Demons’ a Legend of the Five Rings Novel by Marie Brennan, which is released internationally on ebook and in paperback in the US today by Aconyte Books.
Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review
A thrilling epic fantasy adventure in the astonishing realm of Legend of the Five Rings, as two rival clans join forces to investigate a lethal supernatural mystery
Chaos has broken out in the isolated Dragon Clan settlement of Seibo Mura. During the full moon, horrifying creatures rampage through the village, unleashing havoc and death. When the Dragon samurai Agasha no Isao Ryotora is sent to investigate, he faces even greater danger than expected. To save the village, he must confront his buried past – not to mention an unexpected Phoenix Clan visitor, Asako Sekken, who has his own secrets to hide. The quest to save Sebo Mura will take the two samurai into the depths of forgotten history and the shifting terrain of the Spirit Realms… and bring them face to face with an ancient, terrifying evil.
I leapt at the chance to read Night Parade of 100 Demons because while I have only loose knowledge of the world of the Legend of the Five Rings game and world, I love Japanese folklore and the Night Parade is a tale that I’m both familiar with from other books and media, but it is also one of my favourites. There is also the fact that this was by Marie Brennan, who I’ve read before and I enjoy the way that she writes, her prose is beautiful and really carries you away, so I was excited for the combination of the two.
Overall, I wasn’t disappointed, and the worldbuilding, in particular, stood out for me in this book, not least because it is a culture and mythology that I have been interested in for a long time. A lot of the exploration of the world is done through the characters, as it’s through them that we get to learn a lot of the beliefs, the role and conflict of class in this world, as well as the yōkai. However, Brennan does an excellent job of creating a living, breathing setting that went beyond just the supernatural elements, and that really brought the story to life for me, and I was quite happy to keep reading and exploring that aspect of the world. And it has certainly left me wanting to read more within the setting of the Legend of the Five Rings, and it will be interesting to see what different authors bring to this world.
This is a slower-paced story, sometimes to the point where it feels as though we’re not really getting anywhere despite the mystery, and there were a few times where I wandered away from this one and it took a while to come back to it. Not, because I didn’t enjoy it, because whenever I was reading it, I was lost in the worldbuilding and the prose, I just wasn’t hooked into the plot itself. The pace does pick up towards the end, and the final twenty per cent or so I was firmly in the story itself and needing to see how it was all resolved, but I feel as though some of the action could have been brought forward or interspersed a bit more. That said, the slower pace is not necessarily a bad thing, as it gave us the time to explore the world and to get to know the main characters.
I say the main characters because I did find it hard to feel much attachment to any of the other characters, even when they were endangered by the events happening in the village. However, Sekken and Ryōtora more than made up for that as they are both fantastic characters. While they’re both Samurai and bound by the rules and the beliefs that come from that lifestyle, they are enriched by their own individual struggles and strengths, and different situations and backgrounds. I felt that they both worked so well, not just because they complimented and contrasted against one another beautifully, but because the slow pace allowed us to witness their struggles, with themselves, the situation and a village that wasn’t particularly welcoming to them, as well as the attraction (and whether to act on it) between them. The emotion of the story very much lay with them, and through their investigation and the development of their relationship, we get a rich tale of honour and duty and love.
This is a book that slides between genres, cresting between mystery and supernatural fantasy, with a vein of slow-burn romance throughout, but the combination of different approaches helps to bring this book to another level. It wasn’t without its faults, but it was an entertaining and impactful read, that went far beyond its supernatural elements to create a very human, emotional story.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.