Hideki Smith: Demon Queller

Hideki Smith: Demon Queller

By Author / Illustrator

A.J. Hartley, Hisako Osako, Kuma Hartley


Myths & Legends

Age range(s)



UCLan Publishing




Paperback / softback




Fifteen-year-old Caleb Hideki Smith is a loser's loser.  As one of the few half-Japanese students in East Portersville High School, Caleb has accepted that he will never fit in. He's not popular, can't play football, and the girl he likes doesn't even know he exists. Well, that was before he accidentally burnt down the town's most beloved historical landmark.

On one fateful day, Caleb and his sister Emily stumble upon a Shinto shrine deep in the Great Smoky Mountains: a shrine Caleb knows wasn't there the day before. Faced with his unfamiliar heritage, Caleb quickly learns that fitting in was the least of his problems. You cannot outrun who you are and the past will always catch up to you eventually.

Something is lurking in the caves of the mountains. And it wants to get out...The new mythological fantasy from New York Times bestselling author A.J. Hartley, with Hisako Osako and Kuma Hartley.



Mythical Japanese creatures, family secrets, school and destiny all come together in this exciting novel by A. J. Hartley. For 15 year old Caleb school is a lonely place, especially as one of the few half Japanese students at Porterfield High School. Despite being raised all-American, fitting in is a struggle not helped by school bullies, though accidentally burning down the historic town barn delivers him some notoriety.

While walking through the woods with his sister Emily, they discover a mysterious Shinto shrine which hadn't been there the day before, an encounter that changes them (Caleb develops super strength and Emily can turn into a fox) and their lives forever. When Emily recognises the Japanese link to what has happened, both siblings confide in the only person who may understand what has happened; their Japanese grandmother Bachman. For something has been awoken in Caleb, Emily and the woods, and their family past is about to catch up with them. It's a past they know nothing about, a past of old magic - and demons who want them dead.

Hideki Smith: Demon Queller is an exciting and enjoyable read, full of adventure, mystery and Japanese mythology. The story has several strands at the start which kept me guessing as to what was going to happen, and I thought the culmination was breathtakingly brilliant!

The Japanese mythology and culture in the story fascinated me and, as someone who knew very little about it, I felt I was learning about this alongside Caleb and Emily. To aid this is an excellent glossary of terms in the back of book. Some of these mythical creatures are actually quite scary, especially the Noppera-bo, a supernatural creature which can take human form and terrify victims by showing their faceless real self.

Celeb is an interesting character and quite different from his sister at the start. The author really captures a teenage voice in Caleb and one that is troubled, too. I really felt the struggle in him between being American and being reminded of his heritage by bullies, a heritage he has been taught nothing about by his parents. I was also fascinated by Caleb's Japanese grandmother, Bachan, a keeper of secrets and knowledge - as well as a spirit teapot with a dislike of demons! As well as being a link to the past she reminded me that older people have a knowledge and wisdom we should respect more.

The issues of identity and acceptance run throughout the story, especially for Caleb and Emily, and it's only through embracing and accepting this heritage they are able to battle the foe heading their way and be more at peace with who they are. Accepting and embracing who you are, no matter what other people around you think, is definitely a key takeaway from this book.

Hideki Smith: Demon Queller is a great book and if you are looking to learn more about Japanese mythical creatures and culture, the importance of accepting who you are or just looking for a really good read, I recommend this to you.

336 pages / Reviewed by Stephen Leitch, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


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