A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.
TITLE: A Thousand Steps Into Night
AUTHOR: Traci Chee
PUBLISHER: Clarion Books
LENGTH: 384 pages (11 hours 51 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: Genderqueer/Nonbinary Minor Character(s), Trans Minor Character(s).
A THOUSAND STEPS INTO NIGHT features a girl who begins turning into a demon, abruptly unmooring her from the misogynistic confines of her ordinary life.
I enjoyed Miuko's rapport with the bird spirit, their friendship provided a lot of levity in otherwise stressful moments. The various spirits and demons felt a bit numerous sometimes (especially when I have trouble keeping track of character names), but this felt very accommodating of my inability to keep track of them and I didn't get lost.
The worldbuilding is wonderful, Miuko sometimes pauses to explain something, but it's always right when it's needed. This is generally free of anything resembling infodumps, as the explanations are a natural part of Miuko processing what's happening around her. I enjoyed the audiobook immensely, the narrator did an excellent job and really helped the story flow.
One of my favorite things about this is how it's a story about identity, empowerment, and the difference between an aspect of identity being bad versus it being someone else's excuse to be exploitative or cruel. This is explicitly bound up in how the book approaches gender, but that general idea applies to other aspects as well. Miuko is a cis character (as best as I can tell) who explores her gender presentation a bit with various necessary disguises, and is driven at first to make things safer and better for girls. There's a recurring bit where someone asks what she is and when she says she's a girl they retort that (because she's slowly turning into a demon) she can't be a girl, she must be something else. Early on she thinks there used to be non-cis people but maybe not any more, and when she finds out that the people in power making being trans or third gender difficult socially didn't make them go away, she adjusts her goals to make sure her solution is better for everyone.
The plot flowed and circled back to previously encountered characters in a way that made it easy to follow. I love the kind of reveal midway through the book as to why the plot kicked off in the first place. I don't want to spoil it, but the second half explains why a bunch of things in the first half even happened, and it works very well. I love the ending, it fits the world and the characters and really lets things feel settled.
CW for sexual content (brief), transphobia (brief), classism, sexism (graphic), misogyny (graphic), child abuse (graphic), body horror, blood, violence, fire (not depicted), sexual assault (kissing), domestic abuse (graphic), emotional abuse (graphic), physical abuse (graphic), animal cruelty, suicide attempt (backstory), murder (graphic), animal death (brief), parental death, child death (graphic), death (graphic).