Goodreads: The Night Parade
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.
The Night Parade is a middle-grade version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: a young girl visiting her grandmother in rural Japan makes some bad decisions and awakens three spirit guides who bring her through the mystical Night Parade in an attempt to help her to learn something about herself.
Unfortunately, the similarities between Dickens and Tanquary end there. The Night Parade is far from being as close-knit as A Christmas Carol. The spirit guides are random, flighty, and generally operating on completely different agendas from each other and from protagonist Saki. They don’t show Saki past, present, and future events; they basically all take Saki to the same place in the woods, and the difference readers are supposed to notice between their scenes is in their personalities—which, frankly, are nearly irrelevant to teaching Saki a lesson.
The entire structure of the book falls in the same mold as the spirit guides. There seems to be no guiding logic to how the fantasy world or the magical system works. Rules of magic appear suddenly either in response to a plot need or because, one assumes, the author thought the rule would simply be quirky and entertaining. It’s hard to figure out how anything works, which makes reading the book frustratingly confusing.
Furthermore, the book isn’t even clear on what Saki is supposed to learn. At various times she is accused of being overly attached to her phone, of being selfish, of not taking time to complete religious ritual properly, of raising evil spirits, and of being disrespectful to her elders. And depending on which character is speaking at which time, Saki’s quest is about redeeming herself, or stopping a death curse, or defeating an evil spirit. Sure, all of these things can be true at the same time, but the book does a poor job of explaining how they are (if they are), and the overall effect is incredibly bewildering.
The Night Promise has a richly described setting and some subsequent potential. It will definitely catch the eye of readers looking for diverse fantasy. However, I personally found the book too random and contradictory to follow, which should be far from the case for an English graduate student reading a book aimed at middle school students. I recommend passing.