A Darkly Beating Heart


Though things have been busy lately, I really have been remiss in posting here consistently. So I have for you today another book review! Yet another NetGalley pick, I chose this one because of its cover and the interesting blurb on the back.


This book follows Reiko, a Japanese-American teenager, after she’s shipped off to Japan to stay with her cousin’s family in the hopes that it will help her learn to control her emotions.

Reiko is a character who is filled with anger. Its pretty much brought up on every page, which has led some reviewers to give this book a pretty hard knock. They find it annoying and unrealistic (poor little rich girl, sent off to Japan…) and couldn’t sympathise or identify with her character.

I don’t agree.

There are aspects of this book I didn’t like, but Reiko’s anger wasn’t one of them. I was happy to see a character in her situation, that is, struggling to comprehend and express her emotions (or lack of). In reading, it was my understanding that Reiko was dealing with a mental illness – something she struggled to refute as she was medicated and committed to a psychiatric facility. In her mind, she simply wanted revenge – to hurt those around her as she perceived she had been hurt.

Reiko’s anger leads to an interesting supernatural situation as she and her companions visit the historic village of Kuramagi, preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period. After discovering a strange stone in a hidden shrine, Reiko finds herself living the life of Miyu, a young woman living in the Edo period itself. As Reiko struggles to piece together what is happening she bounces between bodies and timelines.

Her actions are often foolish, her impulses upsetting, her attitude reprehensible. But guess what: she’s a teenager.

I really enjoyed the supernatural aspects of this story, and I would have loved if that were expanded upon. As it was though, I didn’t like that the convergence of Miyu and Reiko was given as the cause of Reiko’s anger. It seemed like an easy out for the author and I really expected something more. Living happily ever after without emotional labour, consequence, or therapy seems very unlikely to me.

I also wished to see more of Miyu’s life, and to know what happened to her when Reiko inhabited her body. It seemed a bit laissez-faire for time-travel, though I did like that people in Reiko’s life noticed the strangeness about her later on in the book.

If you’re looking for an okay quick read with a character in a state of emotional upset that also involves time travel, this is the book for you.

Have you given this book a try? Have you read any fantastic books set in Edo-period Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

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