Voice of the Sword: Sword, Mirror, Jewel – Book One
by John Paul Catton (Goodreads Author)
The story starts out with Reiko, a biracial Japanese High School girl and her boyfriend, Hideaki, going into an old cemetery for a school project. Hideaki gets possessed and Reiko and the rest of her returnee/international friends have to figure out how to save him as well as the rest of Tokyo from a cataclysmic event.
The beginning really drew me in. The parts where Reiko and her friends are at school or navigating an annual culture festival, etc. were great. When things start to get wacky with yokai and magic upping the ante we even get a mystical warrior woman and an incarnation of Hikaru Genji who has flying dragonfly cameras, silly endearing nicknames, and a sleek beauty that Reiko notices a lot.
Reiko as a high school girl wasn’t entirely believable at times. She’s a Rekijo–a history nerd– so that worked well usually for historical exposition dumps, but she calls Hideaki her boyfriend and we get little on that relationship whilst Reiko notices Genji a lot.
We also get some serious wackiness that fuzzied up the plot for me about halfway through the book when interdimensional portals introduce a bunch of new characters some of whom (like Genji or the kappa or the tengu) were very cool and others (basically all the male adults) whom I couldn’t keep straight because they all blurred together.
Lots of hijinks ensue with invisible naginata, a mystical group of swords, and a legend of the giant catfish below Tokyo that causes earthquakes.
Pretty whacky romp of a historical-laced tale, sometimes a bit too expositiony as one character or another told each other about history most Japanese folks would already know, and some excellent re imaginings of Hikaru Genji and Tengu! Probably more YA than adult overall.