The Haunted Bookstore by Shinobumaru Book Review
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Rumored to be a place of immeasurable danger, the spirit realm is no place for a child. As a toddler, Kaori unknowingly wandered into the realm. When the spirit Shinonome stumbled upon Kaori, he ushered her away to safety in his haunted bookstore. Raised among books and spirits, Kaori became an accepted member of their society, but not everyone in the realm views her as a friend. Years later when an injured exorcist named Suimei shows up, Kaori’s quiet life is turned inside out.
The Haunted Bookstore is a low-stakes adventure. While the spirit world is built up to be a terrifying place in hearsay, as readers wander the realm with Kaori they will realize the spirits who partake from the bookstore aren't as bloodthirsty as predicted. There are a few moments where the tension peeks as Kaori encounters cranky spirits, but nothing she can’t handle. I loved how dodging deadly attacks were just a daily part of life for her as she delivered books. Meanwhile, Suimei is near panic and can’t believe Kaori stays calm in most situations.
Having grown up in the spirit world, it’s all Kaori knows. Sure, she goes to the mortal realm to work part-time, but all her social connections and sense of family are in the spirit realm. Bringing Siumei into the mix causes her to question the relationships around her. And as readers are taken on episodic journeys with Kaori and Suimei, both the reader and Kaori realize the special bond she has with the spirits. Suimei has to fight against his instincts to lash out and mistrust every spirit he sees. Witnessing his slow and tenuous acceptance of spirits was
The underlying themes of trust, acceptance and found family make this such a wonderful read. Although I do wish there had been more time spent outside the spirit realm. I’d like to see the comparison between Kaori interacting with humans she is familiar with versus the spirits. There is a brief moment where she is shown working in a store, but overall much more time is spent in the spirit world. If you’re looking for a low-stakes adventure and you don’t mind an episodic writing style, give The Haunted Bookstore volume one a try!
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