Ebony Gate by Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle, published 11 July 2023.

Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle's Ebony Gate is a female John Wick story with dragon magic set in contemporary San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Emiko Soong belongs to one of the eight premier magical families of the world. But Emiko never needed any magic. Because she is the Blade of the Soong Clan. Or was. Until she’s drenched in blood in the middle of a market in China, surrounded by bodies and the scent of blood and human waste as a lethal perfume.

The Butcher of Beijing now lives a quiet life in San Francisco, importing antiques. But when a shinigami, a god of death itself, calls in a family blood debt, Emiko must recover the Ebony Gate that holds back the hungry ghosts of the Yomi underworld. Or forfeit her soul as the anchor.

What's a retired assassin to do but save the City by the Bay from an army of the dead?

This book was advertised to me as John Wick meets Ghostbusters with Asian Mythology. My mind conjured a female badass assassin in a grey jumpsuit fighting marshmallow-shaped ghosts with energy-boosted Samurai swords. This is definitely not what the book is like, but somehow it also is.

Emiko is a badass female MC, who definitely knows how to wield a sword and catch ghosts. Pressed for time she and a motley crew of sidekicks, ranging from cute but lethal foo-pet to martial arts fighters disguised as art collectors, she sets out to recover the Ebony Gate before all hell literally breaks loose.

Since this is the first book in a series, we get world-building that sometimes drags down the story. The action scenes make up for this, in my opinion. Some reviewers remarked that the writing style is repetitive and that it’s obvious the book was written by two authors. Fortunately, I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Natalie Naudus, did an excellent job. That’s why the repetitive nature of the writing and the slower parts didn’t influence my enjoyment of the story as much as they would have had I read a physical copy of the book.

4/5 Harpy Eagles – 3 for the story and writing, plus 1 for the audiobook narration.