by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Spirit Hunters. Book 4: Shadow of the Oni, by . Illustrated.
Morrisville, NC, Lulu.com/Perth, Western Australia, Kitsune Press, February 2017, trade paperback $22.31 (310 pages), Kindle $6.99.
Paul Kidd began his Spirit Hunters novels with Book 1: The Way of the Fox in September 2014. He has followed it up with Book 2: The Open Road in May 2016, and Book 3: Tails High in September 2016. Now here is Book 4: Shadow of the Oni. Like the last two books, this has a cover by R. H. Potter and interior art by Voracious Fescue.
The Spirit Hunters series is set in the Sacred Isles, a fantasy world of traditional Japanese mythology roughly in the Heian era, about 900 or 1000 A.D., with all the yōkai (supernatural spirits) of that world: obake, kappa, oni, tengu, and so on. The Spirit Hunters are four freelance ghostbusters who wander throughout this realm, slaying or otherwise exorcising the evil yōkai: Lady Kitsune nō Sura, a fox woman, and her companion Tsunetomo Tonbo, a huge human samurai, who hope to be paid for their services; Asodo Kuno, a young low-ranking human samurai who has joined them to gain a reputation and higher status; and Nezumi nō Chiri, a shy rat-spirit who Sura has invited to join them. Chiri’s two familiars, Daitanishi the air elemental and Bifuuko the rock elemental, accompany them.
Sura and Chiri, and any other animal-people who the quartet meet, are what make these books worth reading by furry fans. They can shift among three forms: human except for animal ears and tail; anthropomorphic, looking human but with an animal head, full fur or feathers, and tail; and fully animal but still able to talk.
While the first three books are basically light adventures, Book 4 is the darkest yet. It begins with “Twelfth Encounter: Shackles of Honour”, which opens with thirteen straight pages of grim battle, slaughter, blood, and death. A decade later, the four Spirit Hunters take refuge from a rainstorm in a long-abandoned shrine: