Author: Zoë Marriott
Series: The Name of the Blade #1
Publisher: Walker Books
Date: June 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Genres: Mythology, Urban Fantasy
Buy the Book • Goodreads
When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana - an ancestral Japanese sword - out of its hiding place in her parent's attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.
The paralysing paranoia that descends on her before she gets to her friend's party is her first clue. The vivid and terrifying visions that nearly get her killed are a pretty good warning too.
The giant nine-tailed cat demon that comes after the sword and tries to rip her throat out? Overkill.
Seconds away from becoming kitty-food, Mio is saved by Shinobu, a mysterious warrior boy. But it's already too late. Mio has ruptured the veil between the mortal realm and the Underworld, and now the gods and monsters of ancient Japan stalk the streets of London, searching for her and the sword.
With the help of her best friend Jack, a fox spirit named Hikaru - and the devoted protection of the betwitchingly familiar Shinobu - Mio attempts to discover the true nature of the sword and its connection to the Yamato family. Because if she doesn't learn how to control the katana's incredible powers, she's in danger of being overwhelmed by them. And if she can't keep the sword safe from the terrible creatures who want it for their own, she'll lose not only her own life... but the love of a lifetime.
I loved this book. Zoe Marriott has written an extremely exciting start to this London-set, urban fantasy story full of Japanese mythology influences. It made me think of the anime greats of my childhood—fantastic story, loads of action, witty characters and the coolest set of mythological creatures since Percy Jackson.
Mio secretly borrows an ancient katana stashed in her family’s attic, which she thinks would be an excellent prop to her Rukia (from Bleach) costume. What she doesn’t count on is developing creepy Gollum-like tendencies and getting attacked by an evil cat spirit. Not to mention that cool, familiar boy from inside the sword…
Marriott is a fantastic writer. She has carefully layered a world on top of a world that is not only extremely well-integrated, but if you think about it, makes perfect sense. Like having a kitsune presence in a city full of stray foxes. Or using the abandoned Battersea Power station to have the last showdown with the evil nekomata. I asked the author if she lived in London as she captured the city so well, and I was surprised to learn she didn’t. Books that borrow from mythology but set in the modern world have to make it believable, and Marriott did exactly that. In fact, I’ve taken to saying hi to stray foxes in the hope that one of them will turn into a charming Japanese man.
I thought Mio was a great heroine. She’s unsure, sarcastic, a little too self-sacrificial, but she’s got a great heart. The balance between her teen tendencies and her need to make adult decisions are pitch perfect. Her and Jack’s friendship was also one of the loveliest things about this book—because of their strong bond, they are each other’s family. Jack is also pretty kick-ass, and as the obligatory normal person getting sucked into this fantastical adventure she has responded how any good friend would—taking it all in stride and filling out that sidekick role pretty darn well.
I also loved Shinobu and his arrival definitely he upped the cool factor of the book exponentially. There is something so charming about a historical boy making his way in the modern world, from the old-fashioned mannerisms to being just slightly clueless about everything. However, the best, best character is Hikaru, the smart-talking, lady-charming, fox-turning kitsune prince. I definitely slowed down reading towards the end because I wanted to savour my moments with Hikaru. It’s pure brilliance on part of the author that he’s got a huge crush on Jack, who, sadly for him, is interested in girls.
I’m trying to write a coherent review here, but really, most of my status updates when reading the book were bursts of pure enthusiasm. Story-wise, it’s an absolute page-turner, filled with cool things like sentient swords, fox amphitheatres and scary cat sludge. My reaction after finishing it was ‘like reading the best anime ever’, which gave me hope because the last few Japanese-influenced books I’ve read have fallen completely flat. Safe to say I can’t wait for the sequel to come out!