Hi everyone! Courtney Alameda, co-author of SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS and monster enthusiast here! I’ve long said that the Japanese are among the best storytellers in the world; not only do they have the richest folklore, but they have an extensive monster bestiary that includes some of the most interesting creatures on Earth. SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS features a mere fraction of Japanese yokai, or monsters, and I’m here to introduce you to a few of my favorites.
Unlike many western monsters, Japanese yokai aren’t necessarily “good” nor “evil;” some, like kitsune, can even be benevolent. So break out your moral alignment charts, because here we go!
NEKOMATA: Of course I’m including a monster cat in this list! Nekomata like Oni-chan, Kira’s cat companion in SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS, are regular housecats for the most part . . . except these cats have two tails tipped in blue flames. When these cats transform from ordinary animals into supernatural yokai, their tails split down the center. Oh, and did I mention they can grow larger than tigers and occasionally like to eat human beings? No? (Art by MonMon Cats)
KITSUNE: While the word kitsune is the Japanese word for fox, but it also refers to a fox yokai capable of shape-shifting into a human form (usually to trick human beings). A few kitsune appear in SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS, including Shiro, Kira’s foxy companion, and Kuzunoha, a legendary kitsune from tales of ancient Japan. The number of tails a kitsune bears indicates how wise or powerful it is—a very aged, wise kitsune may have as many as nine tails. Kitsune are generally female, but we bent the rules for Shiro! (Art by IrenHorrors)
JORŌGUMO: Avert your eyes, arachnophobes! This yokai is half-woman, half-spider, and you definitely don’t want to accidentally run into her web. Given the number of large Jorō spiders I saw in Japan, I’m not surprised that they lent their name to a monster as frightening as this. (Art by Nathan J. Anderson)
ONI: Japanese ogres or trolls. Folklore typically portrays them as hulking, violent beasts with horns, wild black manes, and clad only in loincloths made from tiger pelts. They are both extremely strong and adept at the arcane arts; they are heralds of disaster, disease, and punish the damned in Hell.
Basically, when the oni show up on Kira’s doorstep in SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS, they’re not there to make friends.
TSUKUMOGAMI: These little guys only appear in the novel briefly, but they’re too amazing not to include on this list! After a service life of a hundred years or more, household objects obtain a kami or spirit and become tsukumogami. These yokai are (mostly) harmless and enjoy playing pranks on humans. (Art by creatorofall)
YUKI-ONNA: Last but never least, one of my favorite yokai: the yuki-onna, or snow woman. As someone who can’t stand to be cold, the idea of a creature that embodies ice and snow (and death) fascinates me. This yokai is often portrayed as a beautiful woman dressed all in white, and preys on travelers caught in snowstorms. (Art by CLAMP)
Thanks for reading! And should you take the time to listen to Kira’s tale, Valynne and I hope you enjoy it! Just remember, don’t fear the shadows . . . (but maybe fear a few of the yokai on this list!)
A veteran bookseller and librarian, Courtney Alameda now spends her days writing thriller and horror novels for young people. Her debut novel, SHUTTER, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award and hailed as a “standout in the genre” by School Library Journal. Her forthcoming novel, PITCH DARK (Spring 2017), is a genre-blending science fiction/horror novel in the vein of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film ALIEN.
Courtney holds a B.A. in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing. She is represented by the talented John M. Cusick of Folio Literary. A Northern California native, she now resides in Utah with her husband, a legion of books, and a tiny five pound cat with a giant personality.
Valynne E. Maetani (pronounced Vuh-lin Mah-eh-tah-nee) grew up in Utah and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In a former life, she was a project manager and developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. Currently, she is a full-time writer. She is a member of the We Need Diverse Books team and is dedicated to promoting diversity in children’s literature because every child should grow up believing his or her story deserves to be told. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes, is the winner of the New Visions Award 2013, a Junior Library Guild 2015 selection, and Best Fiction Book in Salt Lake City Weekly’s Best of Utah Arts Award for 2015. She lives in Salt Lake City.
Kira Fujikawa has always been a girl on the fringe. Bullied by her peers and ignored by her parents, the only place Kira’s ever felt at home is at her grandfather’s Shinto shrine, where she trains to be a priestess.
But Kira’s life is shattered on the night her family’s shrine is attacked by a vicious band of yokai demons. With the help of Shiro—the shrine’s gorgeous half-fox, half-boy kitsune—Kira discovers that her shrine harbors an ancient artifact of great power . . . one the yokai and their demon lord, Shuten-doji, will use to bring down an everlasting darkness upon the world.
Unable to face the Shuten-doji and his minions on her own, Kira enlists the aid of seven ruthless shinigami—or death gods—to help stop the brutal destruction of humankind. But some of the death gods aren’t everything they initially seemed, nor as loyal to Kira’s cause as they first appeared.
With war drawing nearer by the day, Kira realizes that if this unlikely band of heroes is going to survive, they’re going to have to learn to work together, confront their demons, and rise as one to face an army of unimaginable evil.
Grand Prize: Win a signed copy of SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS, a signed copy of Courtney Alameda’s SHUTTER, and a signed copy of Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES; anime portraits of Kira and Shiro; a stuffed fox omamori charm from the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Japan; an origami fox hand-folded by Valynne Maetani; a yokai mini sticker sheet; and an assortment of Japanese Kit Kats (not pictured) [INT]
Second Prize: Win (1) of (2) signed copies of SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS with anime portraits of Kira and Shiro (INT)
Giveaway starts January 28, 2020 and ends on February 11, 2020. Click the Rafflecopter image to enter!
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