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Book review: Teen sets out to cure a curse in ‘The Night Parade’

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

You’ve grown up hearing that, and it barely makes sense. Two wrongs actually just make things worse, and there’s nothing correct about that. And, as in the new book “The Night Parade,” by Kathryn Tanquary, setting things straight might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, anyway.

What good was a vacation if you couldn’t spend it doing what you want?

Saki Yamamoto grumped about that the whole way up the mountain to her grandmother’s house. All her friends got to stay back in Tokyo, but Saki’s parents insisted that she and her brother go to the Oban Festival and spend time with Grandma. How boring!

Cleaning the temple and her ancestors’ graves just wasn’t the same after Grandpa died. Fireworks were lame, the dancing was stupid, Saki hated the costumes, and the village where her father grew up couldn’t be smaller. Though she promised her mother that she’d leave her phone off, Saki couldn’t resist catching up on texts.

And that — the whole missing-her-friends thing — was perhaps why Saki allowed a group of “cool” village teens to talk her into doing something very disrespectful. That was when she accidentally called a curse upon her family.

Her first indication of trouble was the cold hand that tried to strangle her in her sleep, waking her and sending her out into the forest with a four-tailed fox that explained to Saki that she had three nights to follow The Night Parade and lift the curse. The fox tricked her, but the tengu, a feathered spirit, took her as far as the gates to the Midlight Prince’s castle on the second night. That was where she met the Lady of Bells, who sent the tanuki, a raccoon-dog that was Saki’s third night guide.

But lifting a curse was not easy nor was it for the faint of heart. With a bag of magic marbles that she’d stolen from a witch, Saki had to avoid bad spirits, ogres, insects and mischievous sprites determined to distract her from her mission.

She had to lift the curse. She didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t…

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like “The Night Parade.”

And that’s a good thing: Tanquary’s story is unique enough to hold a reader’s interest, even on the pages that grow slow. Overall, the book has the feeling of a Japanese fairy tale, which keeps the story sweet, and there are allegories and life lessons here, just like other fairy tales — yet, the monsters and settings are quite a bit darker and more foreboding than anything you might’ve read in childhood, and they made me squirm. Readers will also find a bit of humor to move things along, and though that can be sophomoric at times, it still fits.

Great for readers ages 12 to 15, I think a savvy preteen might like it, and a fantasy-loving adult will appreciate it, too, so get in line. Start “The Night Parade,” and you’ll find it just right.

— View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for teens and children weekly.

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