A Thousand Steps into Night

Traci Chee. Clarion, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-358-46998-8

Inspired by Japanese mythology, National Book Award finalist Chee’s lavish, swiftly paced quest narrative follows plain, clumsy, and “uncommonly loud” Otori Miuko, 17, who lives with her innkeeper single father as part of the serving class in a crumbling village in the realm of Awara, where mortals exist alongside spirits and demons. When a dusk encounter with a malevolence imparts a spreading curse with both visible and invisible consequences, Miuko embarks on a two-week journey across Awara to break the curse before it consumes her. An endearing trickster spirit named Geiki contributes banter, camaraderie, and invaluable assistance as Miuko encounters demon-possessed princes, learns of a spirits hierarchy and the follies of gods, and faces injustice and peril at the hands of men and demons alike. Footnotes providing pronunciation as well as in-world historical and folkloric context enrich the text, and interrogation and analysis of gender, cultural sexism, and patriarchy add layers of contemporary resonance. Intricate plotting; a vivid, multifaceted cast; and immersive worldbuilding provide plenty for readers to sink their teeth into in this triumphant fantasy. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (Mar.)