Second week and I’m still going. This is one that I’ve actually been holding off on reading the sequel until I finished my review, because I didn’t want the next book to affect my thoughts here. Now I’m free to jump into that as soon as I finish the books I’m currently reading. This one is thanks to the lovely folks at Aconyte Books. Without further ado, here’s Marie Brennan’s The Night Parade of 100 Demons. Enjoy!

The Night Parade of 100 Demons cover

During the full moon the quiet mountain village of Seibo Mura is struck by a swarm of horrifying spirits and monsters. Their houses are destroyed. Their neighbors slain. The Dragon Clan has sent help in the form of one of their samurai, Agasha no Isao Ryotora, a mage capable of communing with the spirits of the land and, hopefully, able to put things right before the next full moon. To the surprise of all, a member of the Phoenix Clan, a samurai by family rank and training, Asako Sekken, has also arrived, willing to help but with his own mysterious reasons for being there. Both men have dangerous secrets, but the true threat facing Seibo Mura is lost to history, knowledge of stopping it buried beneath collapsed shrines and legends long forgotten.

Sometimes I just want to chew on a book for a little while, to have fun with it and see where it goes. Marie Brennan’s venture into Rokugan, The Night Parade of 100 Demons, is exactly the kind of book that allows for that sort of experience. There is a solid mystery with a number of twists and turns, but it often feels more like an adventure than a mystery. The kind of thing that crops up at a game table readily.

That the Night Parade of 100 Demons is such an ancient issue as to have become seemingly contextless for Ryotora and nothing more than an old literary trope for Asako, adds an interesting layer to things. Both are trying to figure out what demons are part of the problems plaguing the village as well as why they might possibly be as far from their traditional homes as they are. It makes for this delightful feeling of wrongness as all Ryotora can do is address the symptoms and gather more information and hope that the actions he takes will be enough. Meanwhile, Asako helps as he can, but lands himself in trouble because he very carefully does not talk about the inugami following him around despite it being an aggressively stubborn out of context spirit itself, making himself seem hilariously suspicious.

More than that though, I find that I appreciated how the two characters approached the problems of the Parade differently. Ryotora goes about his business as a mage, has interviews done, resets the wards outside of town, and investigates what he can find. Asako on the other hand, is there less for the village’s problems and more because he wants to rid himself of the inugami, the dog spirit, that has been haunting him, and yet he also has specialized knowledge that Ryotora needs to make his investigation move at all. He also has something of a tunnel vision problem though, he assumes that he is cursed by a witch, so the village’s problems must be caused by a witch despite a lack of evidence for it.

Both protagonists are pining idiots, though for fascinatingly different reasons. Asako is so used to being the useless younger sibling, who does not need to have accomplished anything because his siblings have already advanced the family satisfactorily, so he assumes he is not good enough for Ryotora, a dedicated samurai doing all he can to help this village. He also assumes that Ryotora is so wrapped up in his honor and rote virtues that he would not get involved even if he was interested. Meanwhile, Ryotora is so tied up in knots over having been born to a peasant family before being adopted into the family that raised him, so tied up in a former lover’s cruelty, that he cannot see anything but more heartbreak in his future if he did make a move. It gets a little exhausting after awhile because I’m left just wanting them to talk about it at all, but delighted by the dancing around they do because to talk about it risks being rejected, which would be unseemly.

I really enjoyed The Night Parade of 100 Demons, that should be clear at this point. Brennan does a good job with her characters and her setting, the village of Seibo Mura. The mystery aspect is a delight and the threat of failure feels like it has some actual weight to it, especially when our protagonists try something only for it to result in a set back or a greater problem. Five out of five, I already have the sequel and will be reading it at my earliest convenience.