Published by Tor Nightfire (19th October 2021)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
A Heian era mansion is the perfect setting for the small, intimate wedding that this group of thrill-seeking friends has planned. It’s history is a dark one, a bride left waiting, buried on the grounds, along with all the girls sacrificed to keep her company. What starts out as a fun night filled with drinking, good food, and games, soon spirals into something the group of friends wished they’d never experienced. For the shadows of this mansion are haunted by a lonely woman, with a black smile.
I honestly can’t even tell you where I came across this story, I think it may have been here on Goodreads. But as soon as I saw it, I jumped at the chance to read a ghost story with heavy Japanese culture references. Japan is my place, I’ve visited once, and I cannot wait to go back again. So I’m quite well versed in Japanese lore, history and culture, which is a good thing, because this story was heavily, and I mean HEAVILY down the Japan rabbit hole. There were some references that I did not understand, which I thought was odd. So I feel like this story will only be enjoyable to someone who is incredibly well versed in all things Japanese because there is no explanations or key to help you out. I’ve read other reviews that stated they had to stop reading in order to google certain terms, which I totally get, there were some obscure references in here and I feel like it alienated itself from a wider audience because of it.
The premise was fantastic, but I feel like the execution left a lot to be desired. I’m not dumb, at least, I don’t believe myself to be. I’m also not the smartest person around, but I feel like I do alright. This story made me feel like an imbecile. It was so flowery in it’s narration that I felt like I was missing so much that was being said because my brain had to work double time in order to piece together all the information. Such overcomplicated language was used and I feel like it did a huge disservice to the story because I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as I was wanting to. The writing came across rather pretentious and it took at least half the novella for me to get into the swing of the narration, I can’t even really remember much of what happened in that first half of the book. Lyrical writing is beautiful, prose that attempts to make itself seem uber intelligent when it’s unnecessary is not, I’m afraid.
The general idea of the story was well thought out, but I feel like this story would have worked better had the length been longer. I would have loved for this to be a full novel. So many things could have been explored, especially the characters. Which for me, were a bit of a let down. I didn’t really get to know who our main protagonist was, I didn’t really get to know who any of the characters were, except none of them really seemed to like each other that much. Our MC had gone through some heavy mental health issues I believe, and I feel like at times they came across as someone unreliable, which was fantastic, but I was left wanting.
The conclusion felt rushed and too convenient. There just happens to be this thing in this decrepit, virtually rotting, mansion that they need in order to vanquish the foe. The foe of which I did not find terrifying in the slightest. And all the Yokai, they don’t really strike fear in me unfortunately, so a horror story that showed so much promise, turned out to be a bit of a romp around a mansion that gave me major Fatal Frame/Project Zero vibes (which, don’t get me wrong, this was fantastic because that is my FAVOURITE video game series IN THE WORLD), I feel like that’s the only reason I didn’t rate this lower. I feel like I just really wanted more from this story, and it could have been so much more than what is was, which leaves me feeling sad and yearning for what it could have been.
All in all, this was a super quick read, with very unlikeable characters, some of which were breaking the forth wall and talking about how “this is the part where someone dies”, “You know that we’d be the first ones to die, so why follow” things along those lines, and an entity that didn’t scare me in the slightest. I really wanted to love this novella, but unfortunately is was not to be. If you’re into horror, give it a crack, you might enjoy it, but make sure you’re well versed in Japanese lore and culture, otherwise you will not have a good time.