SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS by COURTNEY ALAMEDA AND VALYNNE E. MAETANI
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Despite our social distancing guidelines, I’m still reading, and you’re still here, so why not talk about books? Here we go:
Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne Maetani is a book that sems to have flown mostly under the radar of readers, which is a shame, because I really liked it. Seven Deadly Shadows follows sixteen-year-old Kira Fujikawa, a Shinto priestess at her family’s shine, as she goes on a quest to remake an ancient sword and stop a demon king from taking over the world. If it sounds a little bonkers, it’s because it is. It’s also a book that’s clearly inspired by a lot of anime—Death Note and Inuyasha are two examples—and I’m not mad it it! Seven Deadly Shadows features everything from shrine maidens to kitsune to moths.
Lots and lots of moths.
Perhaps the thing I appreciated most about this novel was the writing. The descriptions are beautiful and there’s a delightfully creepy element to the prose that I couldn’t help but love. The plot itself follows the same plot beats as the movie, Seven Samurai directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Kira (Kira, Akira? Coincidence? Probably not.), with the help of her kitsune friend, Shiro, have to gather seven death gods—shinigami—to destroy Shuten-doji, a demon king, and save the world from being plunged into eternal darkness. While the plot sounded engaging on paper, it didn’t quite work for me in the context of the story. Parts of the novel dragged, and a lot of its structure seemed to be: Okay, one good thing happens, but then one bad thing happens in the middle of the good thing, rinse and repeat. It was frustrating for me as a reader, and as a fellow writer. It was almost like the plot kept interrupting itself.
Nevertheless, I kept reading Seven Deadly Shadows and found myself immersed in its worldbuilding. As you may have guessed, the novel takes much inspiration from Japanese folklore and mythology. The world itself felt well-researched and respectful, blending ancient Shinto practices and rituals with a more contemporary setting. Unlike characters in anime, Kira still goes to school and works hard to maintain her grades, feet planted firmly int the two worlds her life exists in. In this way, Kira reminded me a lot of Rin (Sailor Mars) from Sailor Moon. Rin also happens to be my favorite character in that franchise, but this is neither here nor there. The point is, Seven Deadly Shadows was a good book. Incredibly well-researched, yet slow at times, though I didn’t mind the slow bits much because the worldbuilding more than made up for it.
If Seven Deadly Shadows sounds interesting to you, why not check to see if it’s available on Overdrive?