Fantasy lovers in Spokane County who don’t have library cards should head to the nearest branch as soon as possible and start taking advantage of all the great services provided by the Spokane County Library District (SCLD).
Not only can people who own popular ereaders such as the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Amazon Kindle download hundreds of great fantasy novels from the comfort of their own homes, but the new release shelves at SCLD branches often feature new fantasy books by an impressive range of both popular and more obscure authors.
Wen Spencer is a fantasy and science fiction author some people in the greater Spokane area may not be aware of, but hopefully SCLD can help change that. She is a fairly prolific novelist who writes really fun books such as the Tinker fantasy series, which is mostly about elves living in a near-future Pittsburgh, or the Ukiah Oregon science fiction novels.
Her latest novel “Eight Million Gods” is like a really fun anime series. The book chronicles the adventures of three American women living in Japan as they discover that the creatures from Japanese folklore are all real and several Buddhist and Shinto gods still interact with mortals.
The novel’s protagonist, Nikki Delaney, is an author with a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that compels her to constantly write. After a scene in a horror novel she is working on turns out to be exactly like a real murder, she learns that everything she writes will really happen. Nikki is described as an oracle. Her writing allows her to accurately see things that happened in the past and see possible future events.
After being questioned by the police about the murder she wrote about before it happened, Nikki goes looking for clues and finds a stolen katana that was mentioned in another scene she wrote. Shortly after she takes the sword back to her apartment and tries to figure out what to do with it, she is attacked by a tanuki (a shapeshifting creature that resembles a raccoon in its true form) claiming to be one of the police detectives who questioned her.
She blacks out and finds herself in the process of fleeing the scene. It turns out that the sword is home to a minor Japanese god named Taira no Atsumori who wants revenge because the guy who got murdered burned down his shrine before stealing the sword. Nikki soon finds herself caught up in a conspiracy that involves secret agents, more powerful Japanese gods and a missing spear that might be able to destroy the world.
Nikki has a formidable team of friends to help her save the world. In addition to Taira, she is joined on her quest by her best friend Miriam, another friend they call Pixii and a mysterious young man named Leo who is basically a professional monster hunter. Miriam and Pixii also have psychic powers. Leo is half-monster himself, although the full extent of what he can do is never revealed.
Saying too much about the plot would spoil the fun. It is safe to say, however, that Spencer does a masterful job of giving the reader a lot of information that initially seems unrelated to the main story and then carefully piecing things together in a way that completely makes sense as Nikki and her friends gradually figure out what is really happening.
Readers will get some idea of what it is like to be an American living in Japan, which adds to the fun. They will also get a crash course in Buddhist and Shinto mythology, which should be interesting to fans of anime and manga and anyone else with an interest in Japanese culture.
Spencer clearly had a lot of fun working things she loves about Japan into the book. Nikki and her friends look and dress like anime characters. Nikki, who doesn’t speak Japanese as well as her friends, is often confused by some of the weirder types of Japanese food and some of the local customs.
All sorts of things an American might have to deal with in Japan, ranging from being charged more rent for a “mansion” apartment to the strange public restrooms, factor into the story in ways a reader might not expect. Spencer does a great job of capturing a sense of what daily life is like there even as she disrupts her characters’ lives by having them fight hostile monsters.
“Eight Million Gods” is a terrific urban fantasy with a great romantic subplot and a large cast of fun characters fighting for the forces of good and evil. Spencer comes up with a lot of inventive ways to take advantage of Nikki and Atsumoro’s powers, and the fast-paced story is never boring. Fantasy lovers in the Spokane area will probably love it.