As Saki Yamamoto drives away from Tokyo, all she wants is cell phone reception. Her idea of fun is not to spend her Summer break with her Grandmother preparing for a celebration of deceased ancestors. Frustrated and angry, she types away on her text messages with concern that her friends back home will turn on her as soon as she leaves. Uninterested in the ancient rituals of the Obon ceremony to honor deceased ancestors, Saki puts as little effort in as possible to prepare or follow rituals and runs afoul of a kind local girl attempting to help her. Saki plays a game in the cemetery with the local popular kids and accidentally unleashes a death curse upon herself. Through the 3 nights of Obon, Saki must fight through The Night Parade of spirits, ogres, and animal spirit guides to safely get to the Midlight Prince to remove the curse and protect the land of the living.
Kathryn Tanquary’s The Night Parade was deeply fascinating and kept me enraptured from start to finish. Her writing style manages to capture all the unnecessary angst we place on ourselves as teenagers, as well as the change to actual terrors when she faces something that isn’t defending her popularity. Saki is smart and sympathetic, making her occasionally whiny outburst both believable and forgivable. Her relationship with her grandmother is also a loving portrayal of what happens when we make time to listen to our elders. Tanquary makes the rituals of Obon easier to understand and uses The Night Parade to enhance their importance. When Saki refuses to take a cleansing ritual seriously, she is later prevented access from the easy way to the Spirit World. This combination makes sense as Kathryn Tanquary resides in Japan where she teaches English as a Foreign Language.
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Here’s a brief excerpt, courtesy of Jabberwocky Publishing:
In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.
Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.
The fingers curled down toward her throat.
She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.
Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.
It was not her brother.
It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.
The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-blue on everything it touched. Her not-brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-o’-the-wisp.
“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.
Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”
It leaned over. She stared into its will-o’-the-wisp’s eyes.
“The Night Parade, of course.”
With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.
“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”
Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.
“W-what have you done to my brother?”
It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”
Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.
“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—”
“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”
Saki blinked. “What?”
It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”
“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”
“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.
“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”
The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your
Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.
Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.
On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.