Cover of A Thousand Steps into Night, featuring a young woman in a red robe with feathers around her in front of a blue cloud

About the Book

Title: A Thousand Steps into Night
Published: 2022
Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cover Story: Battle Ready
BFF Charm: Platinum Edition
Talky Talk: Inspired By
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude Demon, Footnotes
Relationship Status: In Love

Content Warning: A Thousand Steps into Night includes a scene of attempted rape as well as other scenes of violence.

Cover Story: Battle Ready

This cover matches perfectly the story within. The Japanese influences, the magpie, the shades of blue. It looks like a woodcut you’d see in a museum depicting a powerful young warrior who existed in the past. Part of me wants a bit more detail in the background—the cream color is very flat compared with the rest of the elements—but that’s a teeny nitpick.

The Deal: Platinum

Otori Miuko is the only daughter of the innkeeper of the small village of Nihaoi, a village that was once a bustling place but has since fallen to disrepair. She does her best to be a good daughter, but was blessed—or cursed, depending on who you ask—with an extremely loud voice and equally loud personality, two things that society really doesn’t want in a young woman.

When she’s kissed by a demon and then run off the road by another, Miuko thinks it might be karma catching up with her. But she’s never been one to back down from trying to fix a problem, even when it might seem improper to do so, and so she sets off on a quest to rid herself of the demon’s kiss-caused curse—and perhaps find her place in the world, society’s expectations be damned.

BFF Charm: Platinum Edition

BFF platinum charm

Miuko has tried her very best to be the daughter people expect of her: reserved, subservient, dutiful. But as Chee puts it so perfectly:

Unfortunately for Miuko, she had very few of these qualities, and as a result, by the time she was seventeen she had discovered that she was not only able to frighten off a man with the power of her voice alone, but she also had regrettable inclinations toward spilling tea upon her guests, kicking accidental holes in the rice paper screens, and speaking her mind, whether or not she was invited to do so.*

This description is on page 2, and it made me immediately want to give Miuko the best of our BFF Charms, regardless of what was to come later in the book. (Thankfully, she only got better throughout, and I never once regretted that initial inclination.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Although part of me was hoping for more swoon in this book, it’s one that really doesn’t need it. Miuko makes friends and enemies along her quest, but she’s got a lot on her plate—and this is a story about a young woman who’s discovering that she’s good enough on her own, just as she is. Might she find love later in life? Sure. But it’ll have to be someone very special to deserve her.

Talky Talk: Inspired By

A Thousand Steps into Night is a story heavily influenced by Japanese folklore and fantasy stories, and so feels like one that could have been passed down throughout the generations. That’s not to say that it in any way feels old; in fact, this book is one of the most fiercely feminist stories I’ve read in a while. This is one of the passages that made me feel this way:

“Why?” His voice grew petulant. “To run, begging, to Amyunasa’s priests? To get rid of the only thing that makes you worth anything?”

To another girl, this might have been a harrowing insult. But to Miuko—who had for the vast majority of her life believed that she was neither beautiful nor useful and who had only in the past week discovered that she possessed an assortment of other qualities, like bravery and grit and resilience and loyalty, which were altogether undervalued in women—it was nothing. Perhaps she did not know how she fit into the world anymore, for she was no longer a mere girl of the servant class, but she knew her worth.*

(Reader: I adore her.)

Chee does a really stellar job of crafting a story that feels ancient and fresh at the same time, which I’m sure was no easy feat. Her world-building is wonderful, but I might have connected with it a bit more had I been more familiar with the tales that influenced the novel. No fault of Chee’s, of course, and I’m not saying that she should have dumbed down what is a truly beautiful story for people like me who need to expand their horizons. Just calling it out.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude Demon

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

I said above that part of me was hoping for more swoon in A Thousand Steps into Night, and that’s purely because I am always a sucker for a handsome grey character. Miuko has a run-in with just such a young man, and it’s unclear at first which way he’ll sway—all the way to the dark side or back into the light—when they first meet.

“Why are you here, Tujiyazai-jai?” she asked.

Now he answered easily, with a careless shrug, as if there were nothing simpler in the entire world. “I want you.”*

You can see why I was thinking there might be more to this!

Bonus Factor: Footnotes

A footnote describing footnotes in a book

I love books that include glossaries and pronunciation guides—even while I can get behind the thinking that we should be able to look up unfamiliar terms or ideas on our own. Chee included a variety of footnotes throughout A Thousand Steps into Night that helped me better pronounce and understand the unfamiliar Japanese-inspired terms, which in turn helped me better enjoy the story.

Relationship Status: In Love

You’re not the kind of book to need a partner, Book, but you have me, regardless. We don’t have to ever be more than we are right now, but you do have to be cool with the fact that I’m going to follow you around with hearts in my eyes, hoping for the day that you’ll see me as something more.

*Ed. note: I pulled these quotes from an advance review copy; the final text might be different.

Literary Matchmaking

The Reader (The Reader #1)

Chee’s Sea of Ink and Gold series also features fist-pump-worthy MCs and adventure—plus, a lot of book love!

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)

Renée Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series also features a lot of Japanese folklore influences.

The Monster on the Road Is Me

And J.P. Romney’s book transports the demons of folktales into the modern world.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Clarion Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. A Thousand Steps into Night is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.