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Literature / Spirit Hunters

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There is a vessel without sides, ever full, yet ever empty.
There is a river without end. Ever still, yet ever flowing.
Fathomless, it is the origin of all things.

Spirit Hunters is a book series by Paul Kidd.

The Sacred Islands: A medieval land of noble samurai and animal spirits. Of scheming nobles, of magic and ancient mystery.Kitsune Sura, a wandering fox priestess, assembles a group of would-be monster hunters. Penniless and carefree, they travel from palaces to villages, seeking out dangerous mysteries.A fox, two samurai and a shy and gracious rat go forth on a career of bizarre adventures. The Spirit Hunters battle ghosts, tangle with magic and delve into terrifying puzzles. They must even survive the horrors of kitsune cuisine.

The first book, The Way of the Fox, was published in September 2014 and covers the first three adventures of our intrepid band: "Silent Death", "The Hungry Ghost", and "Sea of Troubles". Book 2: The Open Road was published in May 2016.


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Sura's hoko yari has a blade sharp enough to bisect a fly mid-air or slice a leaf flowing down a stream. And in neither case was she actually applying pressure.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The emperor is 14 years old.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: When the villain of the story isn't a monster or ghost they're usually a daimyo, often Lord Raiden or one of his vassals. Lord Ishigi seems to be a fun guy though, but turns out to be part of the plot to overthrow the emperor and install a shogunate.
  • Asshole Victim: "First Encounter: Silent Death" features an arrogant, sexist swordsman who became his school's champion by virtue of being the headmaster's nephew; and who was found with his neck crushed and his blood drained. While in "The Hungry Ghost" the greedy warlord who conquered the village and wiped out the noble clan who ruled it becomes the ghost's next victim.
  • Banishing Ritual: Sura prefers banishing extraplanar monsters back to their home plane to destroying them, in a ritual that usually involves boxing them in with Paper Talismans, making a yin-yang symbol in the air with her hands or the butt of her spear, then using her spear's Absurdly Sharp Blade to tear open a rift in planes and shove the monster through.
  • Barrier Warrior: Sura's primary combat spell is to place shield walls connected by paper talismans, primarily to pen in evil spirits for banishment.
  • BFS: One of the whalers in part 3 has a seven-foot-long no-dachi. Tonbo shatters it with his club.
  • Big Eater: Sura has a tendency to order massive quantities of food whenever they stop at an inn, especially when she can con someone else into footing the bill. Case in point, first time they went to an inn the bill ended up costing forty copper coins.
  • Blood Magic: When bloodless corpses start showing up in "First Encounter" Sura suggests Black Magic. And maho is shown to be responsible for the giant crabs in the third encounter.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Tonbo's favored weapon is the tetsubo, a staff with a wide, steel-coated and spiked head. A weapon meant for smashing through armor.
  • Catchphrase: "Trust me, I'm a fox!"
  • Clear My Name: Asodo Kuno is one of three potential suspects in a murder investigation later in "Silent Death", and it really doesn't look good for him as the victim had tried to attack him earlier that night.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Sura once used a paper fan with Tao symbols as a focus for her "Tao blast" spell. Wore out after a couple uses.
  • Demonic Possession: Well, ghostly. "The Lodge of the Doves" features four ghosts who were two pairs of lovers in life and possess people who enter the mansion where they died in order to relive their last days. The team gets possessed by them three times.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: Once Sura goes through the Realm of Shadow to bypass some evil spider spirits.
  • Fantastic Drug: Night Lotus, an addictive and toxic hallucinogen.
  • Foreign Queasine: In the third part the group orders some "fresh seafood", their being inlanders who've never been to the coast before. Which turns out to be pickled sea cucumbers, live snails and bivalves, sashimi, and sea urchins. Even Sura is a bit squicked at the spread.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sura: Sanguine, Tonbo: Choleric, Kuno: Melancholy, Chiri: Phlegmatic (with an emphasis on timidity).
  • Giant Enemy Crab: In "Sea of Troubles" the marshes are infested with gigantic crabs.
  • Giftedly Bad: Kuno's poetry is rather awful, and he's written three volumes.
  • Ghostly Goals: The first ghost they run into was a samurai general who died failing to defend his liege and now kills anyone who offends the last member of that clan, whether she wants him to or not, until his son swears to defend her for him. Other ghosts include a disgraced samurai whose name was stricken from the records, denying him an afterlife; a woman who died in childbirth and tricks Tonbo into carrying a stone that gets extremely heavy before turning into a live baby, enabling her to pass on.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: A copper coin can buy enough rice to feed a man for a day, a silver is enough for a month, gold for a year. Kuno's annual salary as a wandering Imperial deputy at the start is one gold coin.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: The guys are both samurai, Kuno a swordsman while Tonbo has a big metal-studded club. While the women of the group are spellcasters, though Sura is pretty good with spear and short sword and Chiri has a pair of kama.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Sura loves her plum wine. Unfortunately she also gets flushed, down through her cleavage. While she loves alcohol and thinks she has a high tolerance, she's actually a lightweight.
  • Harmless Freezing: Subverted with the Ice Maiden's on-screen victim, Sura hoped that he might still be alive despite the freezing but nothing they do can revive him. Then the Ice Maiden's two halves are reunited and all her victims are thawed and turn out to be alive.
  • Honor Before Reason: Sura and Kuno have some interesting discussions on the concept of honor.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Sura is Taoist, not Buddhist, as one is frequently reminded. But a lot of what she says makes about as much sense.
    ''"Every moment is perfection. Every instant, an entire universe. Embracing the Tao, I shall be treasured and loved by all the myriad creatures! Abiding in a mustard seed, I shall gaze down upon the stars and mountains."
  • King Incognito: One story has the Emperor traveling with Magistrate Masura in disguise as his nephew so he can have some experience outside the palace damnit.
  • Lethal Chef: Sura's idea of cooking is "when the legs stop moving, it's done."
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: All of the Spirit Hunters agree to this in "The Lodge of Doves" after getting possessed by two pairs of rather amorous ghosts. Unfortunately the rest of the town saw what happened.
  • Literal Split Personality: The Ice Maiden, the white one thinks all men are scum because of the man who spirned them in life, the black one seeks out new lovers and tries to preserve them while the relationship is still new, in ice.
  • Naginatas Are Feminine: One female samurai favors the naginata.
  • Ninja: A ninja clan become recurring foes starting in Volume 2. They appear in disguise most of the time, only donning the "kabuki stage hand" outfit when in direct combat.
  • Noodle Implements: The second night in "The Lodge of the Doves" involved honey on the girls' side, and a horse's bridle for the guys. The third time they all wake up wearing kabuki masks.
  • Overly Long Name: In "Eater of Dreams" it turns out Chiri's full name is Nezumi no Shiroi-Mori no Mizumi Tsukiko Chiri. She says it's a "matter of great complication."
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: "Second Encounter: The Hungry Ghost" features what appears to be a haunted forest and/or a vengeful ghost that kills people in town.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: A penaggolan detaches it's head and entrails from its torso at night to seek victims to strangle with its intestines and drain of blood. It's also vulnerable to sunlight.
    • Book 2 has a brief appearance by a Jiangshi-inspired vampire, leading an army of zombies.
  • Paper Talisman: Sura uses them to place barriers and banish extraplanar foes.
  • Proverbial Wisdom: Sura (sometimes played straight and sometimes parodied).
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Magistrate Masura is who the Spirit Hunters usually go to when legal issues arise from their investigations.
  • Religion is Magic: Sura is a Taoist priestess, admittedly a very unique interpretation, while Chiri is a shugenja.
  • Samurai: Kuno and Tonbo. Along with numerous other characters, both good and bad.
  • Secret Art: Sura is supposedly the only Daoshi in the Sacred Isles, the information in the appendix states that Taoism was introduced centuries ago but fell out of fashion and was forgotten by most of the island. The Kitsune clan are archivists though, and as a noble Sura would have had access to their records.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Kuno's duel with Saburo, one of the few enemies they face with a sense of honor.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing:
    • Sura and Chiri have to drop their clothes to assume their four-legged fox and rat forms, respectively. Fortunately they're small enough that they can shift then slip out of the clothes, and are skilled enough they can jump into their empty outfits and then shift. Still they end up naked in human or "furry" form fairly often.
    • One time Chiri concludes that a Monster of the Week is using Forced Transformation based on the fact that nothing of its victims is found but empty piles of clothes.
  • Species Surname: Kitsune Sura, Nezumi Chiri, etc.
  • Sticky Fingers: It is not advisable to leave fruit bowls near Sura, or even in the same room. Also she kind of stole her formal outfit, and her hoko-yari.
  • Summon Magic: Chiri can call upon the aid of elemental spirits in the area, and has an Earth and an Air Elemental as permanent companions. While Sura focuses more on sending evil spirits back to whence they came.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: For Sura, peaches. And plum wine.
  • Willing Channeler: Sura can channel spirits from the realm of the restful dead if she needs information from one. Such as the wife of a ghost who hasn't passed on yet.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Animal spirits can shift between a Little Bit Beastly form, to Beast Man, or Talking Animal form.
  • UST: Between Kuno and Chiri
  • Youkai: Henge are imperial citizens, there's even a few landed Clans of them, the Kitsune clan has a mountain and several keeps and human retainers. Other creatures seem to be denizens of other planes, in the first story a hag and a penaggolan are said to be from the realm of slaughter, the world of Oni is specifically stated to have been permanently sealed off by the first Emperor.