I knew going into it that The Keeper of Night was darker than your typical YA and a perfect read for this time of year. It turned out to be even creepier than I expected, delivering an often oppressive atmosphere and terrifying monsters pulled from Japanese mythology. The fact-paced and suspenseful plot kept me turning the page to find out which of my theories were correct and explore more of this world.
I’m not always a fan of what people call beautiful or atmospheric writing, but Kylie Lee Baker’s prose stood out to me as gripping and able to elicit vivid imagery. I should take a moment to note here that I listened to the audiobook, and Rebecca Yeo is one of my favorite narrators I’ve ever listened to. Not only did they masterfully deliver Baker’s prose and the characters' emotions, but kept the voice for each character distinct without being hard to understand even when listening at 2x speed.
Though I know some will disagree with me, I loved Ren as a main character. She’s selfish and bitter towards anyone but her brother (and sometimes even him), but with good reason. As a nonhuman biracial character (written by a biracial author), Ren is constantly struggling with her identity, willing to do whatever is necessary to find the acceptance she craves. I found her to be well-realized and a refreshing break from “morally grey” characters who are mostly just made up of edgy quips.
Another way in which this story examines family and identity is through the relationship between Ren and her brother Neven. He’s almost the opposite of Ren, empathetic towards any living creature and considered by most as too soft to be a true Reaper. Though they don’t always see eye to eye (far from it), Ren will do anything to protect Neven, but, as siblings often do, she’s the one hurting him more often than not. Their differing reactions to entering this unknown world, and the strife that it creates between them, is a compelling part of the narrative.
Though I loved the entire book, what really made The Keeper of Night stand out to me was the ending. There are several twists, the first of which I had reason to guess at, but after that I was entirely blown away. All of Ren’s decisions have consequences, and the ending tracked well with the rest of the book in a way that I found incredibly satisfying. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the second and final book in this duology.
Even if you’re not a fan of most YA fantasy, I’d recommend giving this one a try, assuming the concept sounds interesting to you and you don’t mind a main character who has the tendency to be selfish and cruel. If you do decide to pick it up, the audiobook is an excellent choice.