The Night of Baba Yaga (Hardcover)

The Night of Baba Yaga By AKIRA OTANI, Sam Bett (Translated by) Cover Image
By AKIRA OTANI, Sam Bett (Translated by)
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A fierce mixed-race fighter develops a powerful attachment to the yakuza princess she’s been forced to protect in this explosive queer thriller: Kill Bill meets The Handmaiden meets Thelma and Louise.

Tokyo, 1979. Yoriko Shindo, a workhorse of a woman who has been an outcast her whole life, is kidnapped and dragged to the lair of the Naiki-kai, a branch of the yakuza. After she savagely fends off a throng of henchmen in an attempt to escape, Shindo is only permitted to live under one condition: that she will become the bodyguard and driver for Shoko Naiki, the obsessively sheltered daughter of the gang’s boss.

Eighteen-year-old Shoko, pretty and silent as a doll, has no friends, wears strangely old-fashioned clothes, and is naive in all matters of life. Originally disdaining her ward, Shindo soon finds herself far more invested in Shoko’s wellbeing than she ever expected. But every man around them is bloodthirsty and trigger-happy. Shindo doubts she and Shoko will survive much longer if nothing changes. Could there ever be a different life for two women like them?

Akira Otani’s English-language debut moves boldly through time and across gender, stretching the definitions and possibilities of each concept. Rendered in a gorgeous translation by International Booker–shortlisted Sam Bett, this lean, mean thriller proves that bonds forged in fire are unbreakable.

About the Author

Akira Otani was born in Tokyo in 1981. Beginning her career writing for video games, she made her literary debut with the short story collection Nobody Said We’re Perfect, an exploration of relationships between women. An out lesbian, she is the author of the essay collection Since You’re So Curious About My Body and the forthcoming novel Rurika, Born 2019, Turns 50. The Night of Baba Yaga is her first book to be translated into English.

Sam Bett is a fiction writer and Japanese translator. Working with David Boyd, he co-translated the Mieko Kawakami novels Heaven, shortlisted for the International Booker Prize; All the Lovers in the Night, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; and Breasts and Eggs.

Praise For…

Praise for The Night of Baba Yaga

BookPage’s Top 10 Books of July
A BookBrowse Top Pick
A Ms. Magazine Most Anticipated Feminist Book of 2024

Publishers Weekly’s Spring 2024 Preview Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers
★ Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, BookPage, and Foreword Reviews

“An explosive thriller.”

“Through a fresh lens, Otani spins a lean and mean tale of female empowerment — think Thelma & Louise vs. the yakuza . . . Translated in bursts of vivid prose by Sam Bett, this mismatched pair becomes the reader’s guide to a time-jumping outlaw tale that is both shocking in its violence and bracing in its depiction of a relationship that no one — not the yakuza’s minions, their boss or the women themselves — see coming.”
—Paula Woods, Los Angeles Times

“Joyfully aggressive and painfully tender, The Night of Baba Yaga dares to reimagine the boundaries of self within the systems of any society, boldly questioning ideas of violence, love, family and honor.”
The Japan Times

“Here’s the queer yakuza thriller we’ve been waiting for! From the ferocious fights to the secret tenderness, this one will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
—Ms. Magazine

“Part kick-to-the-solar-plexus martial arts thriller and part poignant queer love story, Akira Otani’s spare, tightly plotted The Night of Baba Yaga is a violent and transgressive marvel. The two women at its center—the tough bodyguard Yoriko Shindo and Shoko, the yakuza 'princess' she’s charged with protecting—couldn’t be more different on the surface, but they awake in each other a desire to live free from the yakuza’s cruelty. I read the novel in a breathless flash and still can’t shake the sheer power of its ending.”
—John Copenhaver, Lambda Award–winning author of Hall of Mirrors

“Otani’s explosive debut navigates gender and time, offering a gripping, unbreakable thriller.”
Tokyo Weekender

“This has Old Boy levels of violence and subject matter . . . but it’s also very funny and it’s a bit of a mystery . . . Extremely gory and violent but it’s also an amazing tale of a woman in a man’s world literally fighting to get free. The action whips by so fast, it will take you no time to read it.”
—Liberty Hardy, Book Riot’s All the Books!

The Night of Baba Yaga is a novel to be widely—and voraciously—read, even if it’s at the beach.”
—Asian Review of Books

“As thrilling as it is fast paced.”
—First Clue Reviews

“Tough muscle with a tender heart.”
—The Hard Word

“Otani’s artful, staccato sentences, deftly translated by Bett, draw readers in, and an unexpected time-jump midway through the novel gives it an ingenious jolt of life. This tender yet furious crime saga will leave readers hungry for more from Otani soon.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Otani paints a vivid, unsettling picture of the violent world of the Yakuza. A mashup of crime thriller and queer romance, this fascinating fairy tale retelling has a decidedly un-fairytale-like ending but showcases the power of two very different women who risk everything to be free.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“The sharp prose conveys action sequences, tense exchanges, and tender moments with deftness and lively details. By turns terrifying and empowering, The Night of Baba Yaga is a dark thriller in which two women defy all conventions and risk much to regain their autonomy.”
Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

“Circular plotting, clear villainy, and primal motives evoke the Brothers Grimm’s warning tales; this literary genre-bender will appeal to readers who favor fairy-tale adaptations, vigilante-justice thrillers, and queer crime fiction.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

"The English language debut of Japanese writer Akira Otani, features all the elements you could hope for from a crime thriller set in the Land of the Rising Sun: a heroine spiritually descended from samurai stock; two pairs of lovers on the run; a beautiful and spoiled young woman treated like a hothouse flower by her doting father; and a yakuza presence that is gloriously, gratuitously violent, well beyond the traditional chopping off of a pinky finger for perceived insubordination."
—BookPage, Starred Review

“Otani’s prose is tight and sharp, conveying a great deal with short, blunt sentences . . . The book’s translation by Sam Bett is excellent as well, and untranslated Japanese terms are provided with a clear and concise definition in a footnote. I highly recommend The Night of Baba Yaga to fans of thrillers, especially those focused on martial arts or organized crime, as well as readers looking to branch out into the genre.”

Product Details
ISBN: 9781641294911
ISBN-10: 1641294914
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2024
Pages: 216
Language: English