Is the sequel to Kylie Lee Baker‘s book The Keeper of Night as good as the original? I read The Empress of Time and, in a word, yes. For more words, check out the rest of my review.
You might remember that I wrote a review for the first book in this duology, The Keeper of Night. If you haven’t read that book yet but are still planning to, please go read that book before reading this review. I will try to keep this review relatively spoiler free, but by the very nature of this book being a sequel there are going to be some things here that will spoil elements of the first book.
I assume if you are still here, you’re okay with a few spoilers from the first book. Let’s go!
When we left off in the last book, Ren had murdered the love of her life, inherited the role of Japan’s death goddess, and her brother Neven had been trapped in the Deep Darkness which had killed her mother centuries ago. This book picks up 10 years later. Ren rules the underworld reluctantly and without the respect or support of most of her Shinigami. She has sent scouts into the Deep Darkness daily in the hopes that they might be able to find and rescue her younger brother. Deciding that she has to do the job herself, but unable to pierce the barrier that surrounds the Deep Darkness, Ren has taken to eating the souls of Japanese criminals before it is their allotted time to die. She hopes that these souls will one day make her strong enough to pierce the Darkness and rescue Neven.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, England has got itself a new death goddess as well. The new goddess is none other than Ren’s former bully and nemesis, Ivy. British Reapers begin to land on the shores of Japan and start murdering Ren’s Shinigami. They are scouts sent to precede Ivy’s arrival. Ren learns that she has at most 4 days before Ivy’s ship full of High Reapers come to Japan with a plan to kill Ren and colonize the islands. The bearer of this news is Tsukuyomi, the moon god and look alike brother of Ren’s dead lover Hiro. They set out to enlist the help of a third brother who is the god of the sea and has helped keep foreign gods out of the country before.
I really enjoyed this book, maybe even a little more than the first book. While it is still dark, and the main character is still somewhat unlikeable, it’s a little less dark than the first book. There is still gore and death, but the overall vibe is more hopeful than the original work felt. While The Keeper of Night was more a book about escape and Ren trying to find a place to fit in, The Empress of Time is about overcoming the past and Ren carving out a life that fits her.
There is a romantic arc in the second book. I believe that this series is intended to end as a duology, but I did wonder at one point if there was going to be a third book where Ren would have a romance with the third brother. Without giving anything away, I would say that the ending of this book did not exactly take that option off the table. It seems unlikely, but not impossible.
While the romantic relationship was a significant plot in this book, as with the first book, the bonds between siblings and parents is the real focus here. We already knew from the first book that Hiro had a bad relationship with his parents. In this book we learn that his brothers also have strained relationships to their father as well as with each other and their sister the sun goddess. Ren’s relationship with her brother Neven is explored in a deeper way, and their father shows up in Japan as well. The author does a good job of exploring the ways that our relationships with our family members change as we get older and gain new insights into things we may not have fully understood as children. That said, the author also makes it clear that some things might be understandable given new context, but it doesn’t change the fact that the damage is done.
All in all, the book is just a really enjoyable read. It moves at a nice pace and never seems to get slogged down in introspection. The characters are interesting and their interactions with each other are believable. I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor, but I really enjoyed the series as a whole. If you are a fan of a little light horror, darker YA fare, or twists on mythology, this series might be for you.