Published by Harlequin Enterprises, Australia on July 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Mythology, Young Adult
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American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She's started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can't imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she's fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She's flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.
When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo's dark ancestry, as well as Katie's, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.
A wonderful Japanese setting coupled with a rich exploration of Japanese mythology about Kami, Rain was an excellent sequel of Ink. I love how the Paper Gods series brings the rich and vibrant Japanese culture to life. It interchanges the language into the dialogue which is never difficult to pick up, talks about wearing traditional yukata, having bento boxes for lunch and living in traditional guest rooms with tatami mats. Japan is one of my favourite places, and the culture and traditions felt authentic.
Rain focuses more centrally on the Kami mythology, with Katie and Tomohiro struggling to understand the effects of the ink which seems to be spiraling out of control. Tomo’s loose grip on his powers bring about some pretty epic scenes, where a whole festival explodes in a rain of ink and he keeps on succumbing to the dark side during kendo. The two have a tumultuous relationship, as they try and work through their issues with his powers which only seem to get worse with Katie around. I was swept up in the beautiful mythology and the paintings sprinkled throughout the paperback, as Katie explores the origins of the Kami and her own past.
Maybe there was a dangerous Kami lurking in Tomohorio, but there was a beauty living in him, too. His sketches left me breathless sometimes. That dark cloud of butterflies for one, the wagtails and plum blossoms, and the furin chimes.
Compared to the first book, Katie was a lot less annoying and more mature, as she is focused on helping Tomohiro overcome his dangerous Ink powers as a Kami, and finding out about her own powers. I liked how she shared her struggles of being a foreigner in Japan, such as the difficulty of picking up the language, learning kanji, and of needing to ‘read between the lines’ when it came to emotions. These cultural differences could only be pinpointed by someone who had experienced the culture first hand, and the author having been in Katie’s situation captured it in a candid way. She still continues her stalker tendencies though by turning up to Jun’s school now on then to find out more about the Kami.
The romance leaves a lot to be desired, as it succumbs to cliche elements throughout the novel. There’s a love triangle with Jun, the bad boy and enemy to her boyfriend which she sneaks around with and keeps a secret, and the interfering jealous girl. Katie and Tomo also decide they need to stay away from each other so their powers don’t hurt each other, even though their feelings are strong. Both Jun and Tomo have their own complex stories, which made them interesting love interests. I couldn’t see or feel why they would be attracted to Katie though, and the novel doesn’t really show us this.
Jun was a calm lake; Tomo was a waterfall. And I was the water, swept every which way, unable to shape myself into what I wanted.
I enjoyed the friendship angle here with Katie building authentic relationships with her friends Tanaka and Yuki, who helped her with her study struggles and stood by her.
Rain was an improvement over Ink as it explored the mythological aspects of Kami and had some pretty epic scenes with drawings coming to life. While the relationship aspect of the book felt contrived, this series captures the beauty and the authenticity of living in Japan, which I really enjoyed. A great cultural YA novel covering the beautiful culture of Japan, coupled with rich, beautiful Japanese mythology.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I received a review copy from Harlequin Australia in exchange for an honest review.
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