Book Review: A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba

“Beyond the average tale of vampires, it bares the truths of life through both violence and beauty, imparting lessons one won’t soon forget.”

A Small Charred Face is a series of three young adult stories that connect and describe the lives of an ancient Chinese race of vampires and the humans entwined in them. The prose captures the youthful angst of both the human kids growing up in very dangerous places and a few rogue vampires who haunt the streets by night. The narration of each story displays the heartache of growing up, becoming an adult and seeing the true horrors of the world, bursting the bubble of adolescence sometimes swiftly, leaving nothing but a bloodstain were childhood used to be.

A child is taken in by a stranger after his family is murdered. Kyo’s savior is more than just a man but a bamboo in the opening story, ‘A Small Charred Face’. The Bamboo is a mythological race of Chinese vampires who after an extended lifetime of one hundred and twenty years they literally burst into bamboo flowers and disappear. The child is taken in by the Bamboo, Mustah, and his companion and they begin a life together but everything gets very dangerous when he learns of the punishment other Bamboo hand down when their secret society is revealed to a human.

‘I Came to Show You Real Flowers’ picks up with a character from A Small Charred Face, a stray vampire girl by the name of Marika who has taken a human as a companion even though she knows firsthand the dangers of doing so. Marika breaks more rules than just who she allows to travel with her; she also commits one of the ultimate sins of the Bamboo by feeding from humans. After killing an innocent Marika’s companion leaves her to roam alone once more and many years later she can feel herself disappearing. The need to show her old friend true flowers becomes of utmost importance.

The third and final story, ‘You Will Go to The Land of The Future’, takes the audience back in time to when the first of the Bamboo kind existed when a bloody spiral is just beginning. A new group of humans settling near their home decide the monsters must go. It teaches us how quickly ignorance can kill and the bravery it takes to start anew. Heartache, sorrow and triumph mix into a potent potion of imagination as a new kingdom is born far away from the mountains in the land of the future.

Kazuki Sakuraba is an acclaimed Japanese author who won the Mystery Writers of Japan award in 2007 for Red Girls, which was translated into English in 2015. The storytelling talent displayed in A Small Charred Face speaks volumes about this writer’s abilities and will excite the audience with the prospects of future releases. At over two hundred and thirty pages it is a very satisfying length with all three connected stories pulling no punches and going straight for the pulse of the reader, making them feel more than just horror. It’s beyond the average tale of vampires, it bares the truths of life through both violence and beauty, imparting lessons one won’t soon forget. It’s a definite must-read for fans of dark, emotional tales.

                                                                                                                             MICHELLE GARZA

Publisher: Haikasoru
Paperback: (239pp)
Release date: 19 September 2017

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