BOOK REVIEW: MEN OF THE OTHERWORLD- by Kelley Armstrong

BLURB: I don’t remember the first time I changed into a wolf. One night I passed out, and awoke to find my body covered in yellow fur. My brain was beyond reacting. It took this in its stride, as it had everything else in my new life. I got to my feet and went in search of food.

As a curious and independent six-year-old, Clayton didn’t resist the bite – he asked for it. But as a lone child werewolf his life is under constant threat. So when enigmatic Pack member Jeremy Danvers saves him, Clayton is determined to protect his adoptive father, no matter what the cost.

So begins this gripping collection of four tales chronicling the bloody feuds of the American Pack, and the coming of age of Clay Danvers, a very powerful – and very singular – werewolf.

REVIEW: In spite of my gripes with paranormal romance, I love Kelley Armstrong’s writing; she’s funny, descriptive, her action sequences are great and I love her sense of snark. Out of all the different supernaturals that occupy her Women Of The Otherworld series, the werewolves are my favorite creatures. So when I found out this book was all about the werewolves with (almost) no other supernatural creatures, and minimal romance, I was in. Men Of The Other World was everything I’d hoped it’d be. Or at least, the Clay novellas were. The stories surrounding Jeremy’s heritage were a disaster zone, but I’ll get to that.

The two longest, Savage and Ascension,  cover Clay’s upbringing and Jeremy’s rise to Alphadom.

Savage mainly covers Clay’s meeting with Jeremy and his attempts to fit in with the pack, while Ascension covers the pack politics surrounding the power struggle that emerged over who will succeed an aging Dominic as Alpha.

Even though I hated Clay’s relationship with Elena, as a character he was interesting. A man who was turned a wolf as a child ( a sort of modern Mowgli), his story was fascinating and one that begged to be told. And Savage does an excellent job of this.

His meeting with Jeremy is very emotional and shows the patience of the man. Although this story is being told retrospectively from the POV of adult Clay,its still done in a way which employs the thought processes of child Clay. As someone who became a wolf when he was four and left human society until he reached the age of seven, Clay had initially forgotten how to understand human speech and has become a feral, slowly starving in the world.

Even though there’s no dialogue (Clay had forgotten how to speak at this point), and Clay doesn’t understand what’s going on, the emotion is all there. Clay’s mindset is that of well, a cross between a frightened child and scared animal, whose mentality is purely fight or flight, not fully comprehending what’s going on and only coming to Jeremy for food. He sees Jeremy’s attempts to try and dress him as a ‘game’, and it takes a long time to build trust. Armstrong doesn’t rush this, and we have repeated incidents of Clay running away, causing trouble and making Jeremy’s life extremely difficult.

This really demonstrates the compassion of the character, and his patience. Another wonderful thing about this story is that we finally see the werewolves (other than our Italian businessmen) hold down a job. In Women Of The Otherworld, it always felt vague how they were managing to afford this huge property as neither Clay, Elena nor Jeremy’s jobs were shown having much impact on their lives. Here, we see Jeremy having to deal with managing accounts and the inheritance of Stonehaven on his own, and having to deal with translating work to keep the place afloat. This added a lot of authenticity to the book, and it was so wonderful seeing him having to deal with financial issues rather than living in the almost Disney Princess fantasy land where he can just get loads of money selling the odd painting because he’s just that super talented.

It was also great seeing a young Nick growing up with Clay, and their friendship and how his easy going nature clashed with Nick’s loner personality.The power struggle within the pack was fascinating and it was interesting seeing how the different power struggles clashed, although I don’t understand how Malcolm could have ever been a viable contender. Malcolm himself, was just a big, mean ball of macho bile; he doesn’t have a job, is continuously antagonistic to everyone. I honestly didn’t understand why a sensible Alpha like Dominic tolerated him, because he’s such a pantomime villain and a loose cannon. Sure, he’s a great fighter, but he’s nothing that couldn’t be replaced by a good shot gun. What did save him from cartoon villaindoom, however, was his fascination with Clay. I liked how they were both sort of different sides of the same coin, and Malcolm uses his wolf ideology to justify his cruelty, while Clay, allegedly more wolf than human, cannot understand this senseless cruelty.

One thing I did really hate was how quickly Clay went from being behind his peers due to being in the wild so long, to suddenly being extremely gifted and talented and ahead of everyone else. This happened in the space of a year or two. I’m sorry, but this is complete nonsense. There’s no way Clay could have caught up so quickly, and the only reason he does is because he’s meant to be this super special love interest. Clay is impulsive, irrational and lacks judgement and is extremely primal. He has shown absolutely no sign of having a brain for the entire series, there’s no way I buy him as this super special genius.

But all in all, I absolutely loved these novellas and enjoyed them more than a lot of Elena’s books in the main series.

Infusion and Kitsunegari

Now, with a heavy sigh I have to get to the disaster that is Jeremy’s Asian heritage. Oh my, why did she have to do this? You see, in this Jeremy is half kitsune on his mother’s side (which isn’t a spoiler- if a Japanese supernatural turns up in urban fantasy, it’s always a kitsune). So basically, a kitsune comes along, breeds with Malcolm in order to give Jeremy cool Asian mind powers and is killed conveniently when she’s completed her utility. Yeah, that sounds a bit cold but that’s basically all she is- an exotic baby maker that gives her son superpowers.

The problem is that this is the poster boy for badly used mixed race protagonists in urban fantasy, which is excellently deconstructed in this article here. The only reason that she’s Asian is so that Jeremy gets cool exotic powers, and of course after she’s done that, she’s of no further use so she’s done away with. Nothing of her heritage is passed on to Jeremy, she’s never treated as a person, and none of Jeremy’s heritage affects his life or him as a person- you’d think that growing up getting racially abused by his father and being the only mixed race Asian amongst a bunch of white men would have some affect on him. But no, it’s brought up so little in the series this feels like a bizarre ret con. This is even lazier Mixed Race writing than Zoey Redbird was in HoN, who at least acknowledged the existance of her heritage (even if it’s only to justify her super special spirit Pocohontus powers)- and if I’m saying an element is worse than anything in HoN, that’s the most damning criticism I can heap on something.

Worse still, in Infusion, the reason that the kitsune grandmother uses for choosing to throw her grandaughter at Malcolm is because their race is dying and they need ‘strong blood’. Yeah, POC wanting the ‘strong bloodline’ of white people is a racist trope that’s been around for centuries, and though I’m sure Armstrong didn’t purposefully write it that way because she’s not a white supremicist, it sounds so much like this it’s impossible to ignore. Also, having a Japanese woman throwing herself at a white man in the 40s… when the Americans were throwing Japanese Americans into internment camps? Man, that’s pretty bad.

It appears they do at least acknowledge the racism and the mother does say that she was playing on Jeremy’s Racist attitudes… but because she’s given no character it all feels played straight.

It gets even worse in Kitsunegari, as a gang of Kitsune attempt to seduce Jeremy away from Jaime in mangled English saying ‘I for you.’ So basically:

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Yes, we went there: we went full ‘me love you long time’, and it doesn’t even have the excuse Full Metal Jacket did of being written in the 80s. Or Southpark for being Southpark. These creatures are literal submissive sex objects, and apart from being desperate for Jeremy’s superior white- um, werewolf – semen, they’re given no agency, no will of their own compared with the other supernaturals of Armstrong’s world. They are literal sex objects throwing themselves to be used by the white male protagonists, and that is one of the most pernicious, nastiest racial stereotypes surrounding Asian women. This wouldn’t be so bad if there were more Asian characters, but Women Of The Otherworld is whiter than Donald Trump’s porch after a snowstorm. Hope Adams is the only non white narrator in the series, while Zoe Takano is the only asian character in the series… and she wasn’t exactly very competent in Broken.

I mean, why are the Kitsune dying out when the werewolves are doing just fine? Surely there were plenty of other supernatural creatures nearer home they could breed with? Why travel to a country they were on bad terms with for their supernatural sperm doner. Plus, kitsune and shape shifters in Japanese mythology typically try and breed with nobility, so the Danvers would be of low blood and beneath them.

It’s a shame we had to do this, to walk into so many unfortunate racial tropes for no other reason than to give Jeremy a bit of extra magic- which could have been done another way, as to my knowledge mind powers aren’t amongst the typical kitsune skill set anyway ; it was interesting delving into Malcolm’s twisted psyche, and Jaime was her usual awesome sassy self. Plus, it was nice seeing Jaime and Jeremy interacting as a normal couple, having to make time to see each other, working around each others schedules and responsibilities. Damnit, why did we have go there book? You were so brilliant otherwise!

VERDICT: Ignoring the tropey racial disaster zone that were Infusion and Kitsunegari, Men Of The Otherworld was an excellent collection that did everything a set of short stories about a main series should do: they told a story in their own right, and added a lot of depth to the series main characters.

RATING: 4 wolves out of a pack of 5

And on a final note, the English cover looks so much, and so much better than the alternative version. It’s good to know that at least Women Of The Other World is going equal ops on terrible torso pictures:

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GUILTY PLEASURES (ANITA BLAKE, VAMPIRE HUNTER BOOK 1)- by Laurel K Hamilton

Ah, before the series devolved into badly written polyamory reverse harem porn (while having little idea what polyamory really looks like), there  . Written in the early 90s, and taking strong  The Vampire Chronicles, and being highly reminiscent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which it preceded) Anita Blake is one of the grandparents of Urban Fantasy genre. Not only that, but it really stands up well today and is extremely enjoyable, offering one of the few urban fantasy novels that has a heroine take centre of her own adventure, which centers around action and not romance.

The story is a sort of a film noir paranormal fantasy where the supernatural is known to the world (which is quite refreshing). Anita, known as ‘The Executioner’ to vampires (because Hamilton couldn’t call her The Slayer- although this book predates the tv series but not the movie), has a licence to Slay and is the paranormal expert that works with the police. What’s cool is that Anita has a job (shockers) that relates to the supernatural, which is being paid to raise the dead for various reasons- like to settle disputes over wills. This in itself is a really interesting concept, and it’s really great seeing Anita live a daily life- with work, friendships, gym routines, bills to pay- that doesn’t just stop when supernatural problems come a knocking.

In this novel, her central objective is to track down a serial killer who’s targeting vampires, but lets face it, Anita Blake is no Sherlock. She is a really terrible investigator and one of the clues she only happened to find because a plot important event just coincidentally was taking place on the same night and the same time as Anita was investigating a nearby location. She wouldn’t have found out who killed the vampires basically announced themselves with an evil laugh and then did basically the urban fantasy version of leaving Anita dangling above a shark pit instead of shooting her with a sniper rifle. Yeah, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo this book is not, but fortunately it doesn’t matter. There are so many interesting things happening that the central mystery- who is the serial killer who targets vampires- was really the least interesting part of this book. This book was interesting for all its multiple sub plots that come together perfectly in the end (although there are a couple of threads that will remain unsolved for later books).

The vampire serial killer is really small potatoes compared with the menace that is Nikolaos, an insanely powerful immortal child vampire (Claudia expy), or this whole ‘human servant’ thing with Jean Claude (super sexy kind of pansexual french vampire? definately Lestat inspired). Now, she really is a fantastic big bad. She’s devastatingly powerful, and commands fear of everyone around her- including Anita herself and even Jean-Claude- who himself is insanely powerful. Nikolaos was brilliantly built up, and like Dominga and The Travaller to name a few, she stands out as one of the most compelling villains in the genre.

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This is one creepy child you don’t want to play with

I also like the way that the ‘discrimination’ against vampires is handled. At the beginning, having not read this book in a long time, I rolled my eyes when it went into vampire rights movement. As I mentioned in my list of top 7 gripes against the genre, I hate the way that discrimination against vampire is used as an analogy for homophobia or racism . But Guilty Pleasures avoids this. A vampire tries to use this logic against Anita, he tries to play the victim and claims that she treats his life as nothing, but she strikes back with ‘you killed 23 people’. Go Anita. It does not use this as any kind of analogy for existing prejudice, but treats it as its own unique issue. Dehumanizing them and treating vampires as vermin regardless of their actions is wrong (like hate group Humans Against Vampires did), but they are far from some helpless minority. I liked the way that HAV wasn’t a direct analogue to NOM or the KKK- they went too far in their venom, but because vampires are super powered monsters who seem to operate above the law, a lot of people have very legitimate reasons to hate them.

Of course, they’re still sentient creatures with free will, so it’s not as simple as them being evil hell beasts either. Anita’s Catholic background is also interestingly utilised in this as she hates the idea of vampirism because she believes in the Christian afterlife, and she doesn’t know if a vampire’s soul will go to heaven.

An speaking of Anita, as a protagonist, Anita Blake really is something terrific. At this point (before the Ardeur dragged this series to hell), she isn’t the chosen one and nor is she some super powerful Goddess. She mainly relies on her wits, ferocity and her ability with guns to get out of tough spots. She’s capable, but more so she’s not just ‘grrl power with attitude.’ Her dialogue’s snarky, sure, and I enjoy her remarks, but she’s also compassionate and struggles with moral dilemnas. She struggles with how black her soul is after killing, and she genuinely cares about protecting the lives of innocents, and when innocents are hurt she grieves them.

I also have to mention the side characters who were generally great. Edward – the hitman turned vampire hunter- called Death was a terrifying and brilliant lancer to Anita’s hero, and it’s fascinating how he also represents what Anita fears she’ll become. Then we have Jean Claude, sexy vampire love interest (although he’s so much more than this). We also have Anita’s best friend, Ronnie.

And thank God for Ronnie- Ronnie is Anita’s female friend ( a depressing rarity in this genre) and a private investigator who’s skilled in her own right. Though Anita will eventually become the exceptional woman- the One Strong Woman while all other women are are either weak or evil- Ronnie holds the line of defence against this trope in Guilty Pleasures. Strong, capable, and though still definitely one step behind Anita and her male allies,her role is primarily that of ally and partner instead of victim. I also liked Beverly Chin, an un trope laden Asian woman who’s an ordinary non action woman who was still able to step up and save Anita’s life . They both help to negate the characterization of Catherine, a girly girl who’s into weddings and partying, who only exists to be a victim and to show how uninterested in those feminine pursuits Anita is; and worse still Monica, a woman Anita hates before she’s even done anything contemptible, a girl who’s even sillier and girlier than Catherine and who’s evil and foolish.

It’s sadly rare for an urban fantasy heroine to have important friendships equal to or more important than their relationship to the main love interest, especially if that friend is a female, so seeing Ronnie and Anita hang out was a breath of fresh air.

Also, I liked the portrayal of Rafael, the  Rat King of Mexican ancestry. He doesn’t play a large role in this novel, but he is compelling enough. He commands authority, and although he helps Anita, he does so out of both his sense of right and wrong and in the interests of his own people, so he doesn’t fall into the ‘helpful minority’ role. And speaking of POC, Anita is half Latina- but really, all her Latina heritage does for her is give her cool gothic dark hair to go with her pale skin (it’s so conveniently when your non white mother only passes on the sexy  traits), so I really don’t think she counts.

VERDICT: Even though this book was written in the early 90s, it still holds up well today. Anita is a total badass, who kicks ass and is front and centre of her own story, which is not just a romance. The world is fun and enjoyable, the action sequences were great and it had a fun cast of characters that are definately ones you want to spend more time with.

BOOK REVIEW: ANGELIC- by Kelley Armstrong

BLURB: As a half-demon master of the dark arts, Eve Levine isn’t what anyone would call angelic. That’s exactly why the Fates chose her for the job. She’s their secret weapon against the forces of evil.

However after five years, Eve is tired of being the designated rebel of the angel corps, expected to break the rules, then penalized for it. When the leaderless djinn stage an uprising, Eve sees the perfect chance to get herself fired. As she plunges deeper into the demon world, though, she realizes she’s in danger of losing a lot more than her job.- Kelleyarmstrong.com

REVIEW: Eve has always been my favorite character from  Women of The Otherworld , and ever since Haunted, I’ve been dying to read another Eve book which never came. When I found out about this short story, I was ecstatic and downloaded it instantly. I couldn’t wait to read about another mission with Eve kicking ass as an angel of justice with a giant sword. I liked Angelic, it was an enjoyable read, but it was essentially Haunted Abridged, as it follows a similar formula and doesn’t really progress the meta story, change the characters particularly or give us any new information.

Eve is summoned by the fates, she’s sent on a mission after a rogue supernatural, she reluctantly agrees, is assisted by Kris, meets Dantalion, figures out how to stop the threat and is back to her starting position. We have the fates, some old friends, the library (I love the concept of that library and the cerberus- but they were mostly the same people and places that were featured in Haunted.

But that’s not to say that this book was bad by any means. It still had all the heart and passion of the other books that Armstrong’s written; it was fast paced, had the classic Armstrong wit that makes all her books great reads . I loved Eve’s arguments with the Fates, I loved how she got one over them in the end, and I found it amusing how she was planning to (mis)use her epically cool magic angel sword as a cosplaying accessory for her pirate costume.

Her relationship with Kris was nice as well- my favourite in the entire Otherworld series- and there is a genuine sense of warmth and camaraderie that makes it feel like a great long term relationship.

It had a great structure, and it was good, I just don’t think Armstrong has anywhere left to go with Eve and the ghost world.

The story only really struggled from the length when we got to the action sequences. Kelley Armstrong is the master of action, and in Haunted some of the action sequences had me gripping the edge of the book and rushing to see what happened. Here, a fight or conflict would be set up, and we would get what felt like the wikipedia summary of the fight. One of the most intense, heart wrenching conflicts was… kind of conveniently dropped thanks to deus ex machina.

I don’t know if Armstrong’s word limit was set in stone, but I’d have been up for it being a few thousand words longer in exchange for a few of her characteristically awesome fight sequences. Hell, I’d have gotten rid of the plot twist, gone for a more simple but intense plot that focused on the action. But alas, for what we got, we had a very well paced story with a satisfying conclusion that possessed all the charm of the main series.

Sadly, this is still a very white series with no LGBT people and no POC except the Djinn (who briefly appear, get defeated and are very briefly are described as being copper skinned), Jeremy is half Japanese, which you’d only know if you read Men Of The Otherworld- (and how that was handled is a whole other can of worms), and Katsuo. Katsuo is an angel who was a Samurai in life. Though he barely had a role in this story at all, he was handled pretty decently. One mercy was that Armstrong avoided the exotic Asian stereotype by having him appear in modern dress, as opposed to Marius who wore the clothes of a gladiator. However, Eve does use his Samurai nature to handwave and explain his motivations- relying on a shallow Asian stereotype to characterise him  isn’t great. But still, compared to what we got in Men Of The Otherworld, its a definite step up.

It’s a shame, because with all the interesting characters and supernaturals Kelley Armstrong creates, she isn’t too hot when it comes to including any kind of human diversity, and most of the characters feel very samey when it comes to their social/ cultural background and a lot of the leading ladies have a very similar voice.

Verdict: Because Kelley Armstrong is such a strong writer, for the flaws of the novella, its still better than 90% of what you would find out there. It doesn’t really add anything to the main series, and if you’re not a great Eve fan, there’s no reason why you have to read it. If you are an Eve fan, and would like a quick enjoyable read to kill a couple of hours, I’d definately give this a shot.

RATING: 4 good girls gone bad/ 5

THE PACK- by Paul Louise Julie

I’ve read  a lot of vampire and werewolf fiction in my time, and the tropes and conventions sometimes get a little bit monotonous after a while. So when I heard of this- a werewolf story set in Ancient Africa, centring around the attempt of two brothers to escape Alavert and to get to Nubia, I was sold. How cool is that? Especially since in any book set in the ancient world, Nubias often little more than a kingdom that’s invaded by Egypt.

First and foremost, I absolutely have to mention the art work, and it is truly worth the price of admission. It has this really gorgeous way of rendering spaces, and its art style gives a feel for the time. I mean take a look at this:

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The watercolour, the bright colours, the reflections on the marble and the detail on the plant life really bring to life the opulence of the Egyptian palace. It’s not just this page- the entire book Is this well drawn and it’s an astounding experience. Clearly a lot of hard work and research has gone into creating an authentic looking ancient North Africa. As for the werewolves, they look a great. Take a look at the one below.

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The harsh black lines against the lush green forest really do lend it a primal, ancient nightmarish feel. The author said that because werewolves aren’t really part of ancient African mythology, he combined the wolf with some other creatures to make it more fitting, and it looks intimidating. Its build is strong like a lion, and its little mane and tail remind me a bit of a hyena- but either way, it’s all predator and  truly is the monster that frightened us as children.

So many different styles and colors have been experimented with in this issue, and it’s an artistic marvel. Because of this, I would strongly recommend it to absolutely anything, as this artwork you won’t see anywhere else.

As for the story telling, it’s okay, and Paul Louise Julie has the talent but is still coming into his own. The story of this issue is pretty simple- two brothers are part of a group of Nubian assassins who are slaves (albeit highly exulted ones who get to live in a beautiful palace and are given a lot of wine, women and privilege), and they want to escape. It’s a pretty decent start, and introduces us to the world and gives us a basic outline of the two brothers- ones more serious and wants to escape, the other’s more on the fence but gets thrown into things- but its downfall is it’s told in a needlessly convoluted way.

For some weird reason, we start off not at the beginning, but at events which take place near the end of the first issue, which is still close to the beginning of the saga. Worse still, we constantly cut between the two events. All it means is that what’s a pretty simple story becomes harder to follow and we’re constantly pulled out of the action of both events- the brother’s escape or Khenti’s capture- when things start to heat up, and it’s harder to get caught up in either of them.

There is no good reason for this. I mean, the whole point of this technique is usually as a way of giving it a feel of inevitability and tragic foreshadowing- like with Blood Brothers, where we’re shown that the story’s going to end in tragedy so that even during the happier scenes, an air of ominousness hangs around and we’re watching carefully to see how they build up to the tragedy. The same is true with Madoka Magica, and even Moulin Rouge, which used whiny one’s (I forget his name even though I’ve been forced to watch it so many times) retrospective narration to tell us that this is going to be a tragic love story.

Here, there’s absolutely no point of this- what is it meant to foreshadow? That there’s going to be conflict and werewolves in it? Well, it’s called The Pack and it tells us it’s about werewolves in the description on the site, so there’s no need to tell us that. Is it because the writer feels they need a way to hook us? It begins (chronologically) with an assassination attempt- that’s action enough.

Also, there’s the bizarre plot hole that although the older brother keeps on saying that he wants his younger brother, when they escape the palace he splits up with him for no reason and says ‘see you in three weeks’. Why do they split up to go to the port to take them to Nubia? I know, story wise, why it was necessary to have them separated (so the younger brother-Khenti- can meet the wolf) but there’s no good reason for them to. They were both together and were both going to the same place, and splitting up would just increase the risk of losing one another. It was contrived.

What really needed to happen, storywise ,  was for the older brother- Nekhet-to give his younger brother instructions on what to do if they got separated, and for them to be put under pressure by pursuing Egyptians and for them to lose each other in the chaos. This is an important plot beat that was skipped, and as a result that moment just left me scratching my head.

The other problem is the character designs; they work fine and the simplicity makes them more reminiscent of ancient art, but most of the time the characters are heavily obscured by dazzling light or dark shadows.

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Can you really tell any of them apart? I can’t. It could get really difficult  figuring out who was speaking, and I had to reread and reread certain parts to figure out who’s saying what. Also, I thought the person narrating at the beginning was the older brother when in fact it was the younger brother.

Honestly, the story’s there, the writing has promise, and the art and concept are both absolutely perfect, but it’s not quite there yet thanks to some shakey execution. However, one of the big problems- the needless and convoluted framing device- is going to be out of the window in the next issue, and from what I’ve seen with his later work on Yohance, his skill at the craft does improve, so I have hope for future issues and am definitely down for the ride.

VERDICT: This graphic novel is absolutely worth checking out. The concept of a werewolf story in Ancient North Africa is utterly original, the art work is one of a kind and worth the price of admission alone. The execution of the story so far is a little shakey, but it’s the first issue of the author’s debut series, so there’s plenty of potential for it to get better as the author settles into the writing.

For a look at The Pack Part 1, click here.

SPOOKTACULAR BOOK REVIEW: OKINAWA HAUNTINGS- by Ron L. Dutcher

Beware fellow readers, this is not your ordinary book of ghost stories: not only does this book contain a collection of genuine (or believed to be genuine) tales of hauntings from Japan, this book also contains a spell to summon a ghost. Apparently, if you sit in a darkened room with 14 large lit candles, snuff  one out after every chapter and, upon completion of the book, say ‘Au nowa wakari no hajimari’ before you put out the final candle, you’ll summon a ghost. Well, either that or set off the fire alarm- and since I live in accomodation where one fire alarm will cause the whole building to be evacuated, I decided to give the ghost summoning part a miss.

I admit initially I was a bit disappointed when I opened this; I thought it was going to be a collection of Japanese ghost stories, but instead I got a collection of paranormal sightings and the myths behind them from Okinawa Japan- and most of them pretty similar to sightings and ghost stories we find in the West.

In one story, a cab driver named Mr Miyagi- no, not that Mr Miyagi- comes across a ghostly passenger, who spooks him with her flashing eyes before disappearing into thin air- leaving a puddle of water behind; another is about the victim of an English sailor who drowned during a ship wreck in 1840 and whose screams can still be heard on a stormy night in August; another is about a marine on an American military base who still appears to people asking for a light. There’s 14 in all and they’re all in that vein.

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But wouldn’t that be awesome?

While I was disappointed by the lack of Kage Onna and the fascinating creatures found in The Hour Of Meeting Evil Spirits, it was pretty interesting for what it was (plus it had some Shisha statues in there, which cheered me up).  The ghost stories are recounted in a very unbiased, matter of fact way and each story comes with a picture of the location that where the tale took place.

According to the author, in the original version there were maps to the locations given which were removed, but given the photos and descriptions, its unlikely that any of these places will be hard to find if you go to Okinawa .

The tales themselves are not the only thing this book has going for it;  we also have some snippets from two ghost hunters- Jack Fletcher and Junko Yamaguchi- who went to visit some of the haunted locations at night.

Their part certainly adds some atmosphere and some creepy fun to the proceedings: they bring the place to life with their descriptions and their description of the Shah Bay resort is definitely enough to send chills up your spine. However, a google search told me the Shah Bay resort has been torn down, so it the ghosts there have been defeated by the power of industrialization.

Apparently they also heard strange voices in the other locations, which they caught on tape,  but since as of the time the book was written, they are using the footage as a bargaining tool for a television series, whether the footage is truthful or whether its a fake to make money is up to the reader to decide. The optimist in me who would love to believe in life after death hopes the former, but the realist in me suspects the latter.

VERDICT: Whether you’ll enjoy this depends on whether you’re interested in paranormal sightings and shows like ‘Britain’s Most Haunted’ interest you. If they do, then this is as good as it gets. This is a series of well researched, evenhandedly told collection of tales, which while resembling paranormal sightings from the West, do also offer a bit of an Eastern variety. If you’re going to write a ghost story set in Japan, these stories also provide a good authentic base to build upon.