“Victory is worth any cost. Defeat is a coin with no value,” Guang said”
Spirits of Vengeance takes place a wonderfully realized world, populated with intricately crafted characters. As someone who lives in Japan and has married into a Japanese family, I tend to be wary of Japan-based stories as small things that may not bother the average reader can be an annoyance for me- such as cultural inaccuracies or direct translations of words. However, you can tell that Hayes did his research because the depth of the yokai lore explored in this book is very well done. There were changes made to the original stories to fit the Mortal Techniques world, but the alterations are purposeful and add a very interesting twist in most cases. The Ghibli vibes of the character Shiki were also off-the-charts and I was living for it (she is also probably my favorite character in this world thus far).
One of my favorite tropes is found family with chaotic vibes, which requires you to be very attached to the characters, and Hayes pulled that off wonderfully here. I loved our mismatched band of morally grey misfits, and I was invested in everything that happened to them. The villains were also well-developed, multi-faceted, and satisfactorily terrifying; they felt like a true threat. This was a very important factor as we spend a lot of page time in battle scenes, and we need to feel there are actual stakes to each fight. The ending felt a bit rushed to me, but that’s not enough to take away from the fun I had with the rest of the story.
I will be recommending this as a semi-finalist for SPFBO8.