Tokyo Blood Magic: Shinjuku Shadows, Book 1, by Travis Heermann
Good afternoon you lovely people, are you having a good week so far?
Today, I’m reviewing Tokyo Blood Magic, book one of The Shinjuku Shadows fantasy series, by author Travis Heermann.
Django, a Hunter-Seeker hunts supernatural creatures in Japan. When he’s tasked with locating an ex-lover, Yuka, whose magical abilities have begun to manifest, he must convince her to be registered and branded as an official Maho (magic) user. However, convincing her will not be easy as she is now an unwilling member of The Black Lotus clan.
Django (real name Kenji Wong) is a Warlock and Hunter-Seeker. Throughout the book, his determination and bravery were to be admired, however, his anger at the world often got the better of him. His past was shrouded in tragedy and loss and made me empathise with him as he embarked on his quest to locate Yuka. In general, I found Django to be likable and honourable, a man of his word, but his flaws were also evident throughout the story, which lent him a more well-rounded sense of being.
Yuka (now known as Kimiko) works for The Black Lotus clan, having been sold into their service against her will. She seemed sad in her current lifestyle with The Black Lotus and chapters from her point of view served to reinforce my initial observations. As a character, Yuka is internally very strong, having endured much pain and degradation over the years. I pitied her immensely as I learned more about her life, yet also admired her strength to keep living through it all.
Yuka’s boss, though a main character, (the central antagonist, I believe) didn’t seem as fleshed out as the others in my opinion. I don’t feel as though I learned much about him, so am unsure what to say, other than that he was cruel and degrading, a selfish and truly evil man that treated Yuka like dirt. His unlikable nature made it all the more easier to root for Django.
Oddly enough, one of my favourite characters was Cat, a talking feline that was uniquely magical, however we never find out what he actually is. He was knowledgeable about the history of Maho, his wise and at times flippant nature proving amusing when you needed a slightly lighter moment to break from the tension of the main story. He proved to be a surprisingly helpful ally to Django and Yuka alike and quickly won a place in my heart.
A variety of wise mentors also popped up throughout the story, each with something to teach young Django, so that he could become stronger, in order to advance toward his core goal.
In sum, the main characters were well rounded, each with a unique and emotionally gripping past, save for Yuka’s boss who felt a little flat to me.
There was much that made my reading experience of Tokyo Blood Magic enjoyable. Below are some of the core elements which made for an enriching read.
- The author makes good use of sensory description, to evoke the physical surroundings the characters find themselves in. The specific imagery used paints a vivid picture, which makes it easier to place yourself in each scene.
- The story is action-packed, with a gripping beginning that pulls you in. It starts in the midst of things, with Django hunting down a supernatural creature, giving the reader a sense of what his average day is like.
- Django’s emotional inner-world is well-developed and made it easy to understand his past and present motives.
- I particularly enjoyed the scenes set in the Jianghu Realm, as this particular setting felt so ethereal and spiritual.
- The third person narration worked well in this story. We mainly follow Django, but occasionally follow others such as Yuka, which gives us two interesting perspectives on the main story.
- The world-building was interesting, set in the ordinary human world, with magic infused into it. Additionally, the history of Maho and Japanese folklore was intriguing and well-explored throughout.
Just two particular quotes stood out to me while reading this fascinating book.
1) ‘He had gotten used to moving through the human world unseen, friendless, an outsider in several ways.’
I found this quote relatable on an individual level as I have never felt as though I fit in anywhere. Joining a character on their journey as they experience similar things to myself always heightens the empathy I feel for them.
2) ‘The lies we tell ourselves cannot exist here for long.’
In the book, the speaker is referring to the spirit realm when he says this, however, this saying can be applied to our everyday human lives. The lies we tell ourselves (e.g. That we’re not good enough, that we’re useless, etc) have no business sticking around for long if we wish to grow as individuals and reach our full potential. In the book, we see Django slowly begin to cast off the lies he believes about himself, in order to grow as a person and ultimately reach his goal.
Overall, Tokyo Blood Magic was a gripping and action packed story of loss, love, and vengeance, in a world brimming with supernatural magic and mythical creatures.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended: to lovers of action packed urban fantasy books, involving Japanese magic and folklore.
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Have a wonderful week,