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“The pang of disappointment was unexpected and illogical, but no more illogical than believing her adventures the last three nights had been anything more than wild dreams. Yet with each step along the spirit roads, she’d stopped doubting, not only her eyes but herself.”

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary places the usual Girls Underground story in the context of Japanese animism rather than outright fantasy, something I very much appreciate as an animist myself.

Saki, 13, is bored at her grandmother’s house in the countryside during the traditional festival of ancestors. Spurred on by a group of local teenagers, she rings a bell in the shrine only to find out she has set a curse on herself. On three consecutive nights, she is helped by various folkloric spirits (kitsune, tengu, etc.) to navigate the spirit world in hopes of repairing the damage. She returns to her own world each day, thereby fulfilling the GU trope of returning home in the middle of the journey. Encountering unreliable guides, dangerous witches, and a surprisingly kind ogre along the way, Saki discovers the root of the problem in a dark force taking hold in the spirit realm (the Adversary, although it is only revealed toward the end of the book). When she seems to have failed in her quest at the end of the three nights, she must venture back alone, without companions, to face the Adversary herself, break the curse, and restore health and balance to the otherworld and her own world.

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