yomi cover

At Yomi’s Gate is set in a fantastic version of medieval Japan. Although the geography and culture are similar to our Earth, this is a world where magic and the supernatural regularly interact with the mortal world.

However, even though most humans believe in spirits, ghosts and monsters, few have ever actually seen the supernatural directly.

Storyteller and scroll-painter Fumito has been forced by his paranoid and homicidal uncle, daimyo Kotoheisei, to track down a young woman who bears the destructive god of fire imprisoned in a tattoo on her back.  At stake is Fumito’s family, who will be brutally tortured and executed if he cannot capture her.

Yet when he finally finds Sakura, the tattoo-bearer, and her rescuer, the imposing but shy priestess Ikuko, he decides to help them escape rather than turn them over to his uncle, who will use the fire god’s power for terror and slaughter.  The fate of Fumito’s family is sealed, but that is a price he desperately hopes he can live with.

 When an ancient artifact merges Sakura with the god, granting her control over fire and the magma that is the very lifeblood of the world, she resolves to repay Fumito’s sacrifice by saving his family and defeating his uncle.  But Sakura does not realize the full extent of her power and her rescue mission may end up hurting more people than it saves. And eventually her actions will bring her, Fumito and their companions into a confrontation with the creatures of the underworld whose dark magic is responsible for Sakura’s transformation.

What makes your world special or different?

I haven’t seen that many fantasy novels set in medieval Japan yet, so that is a bit unusual.

In my universe the underworld is its own separate, functioning world with its own separate politics, its own cultures and its own concerns. It is true that this is the place where the spirits of the dead go, but the different races that inhabit the underworld otherwise don’t pay much attention to the doings of mortals. (I’ll admit up front that my version of Yomi is inspired by the Planescape setting from 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons?

How does your main character fit into this world?

There are two people I would consider main characters in my novel

Fumtio just wants to entertain. His main drive in life is collecting and sharing stories with others, usually with his own over-the-top and sometimes grisly embellishments. He recently discovered that he is related to Lord Kotoheisei, a powerful daimyo or warlord. Though he wants nothing to do with the constant fighting that has engulfed his world, he is forced into working for his militaristic uncle.

Sakura was originally just a young maid in Lord Kotoheisei’s household until the daimyo forcibly used her as a vessel to contain the spirit of a god of fire. He tried to use fear and intimidation to control her, but a strange supernatural accident gave her control of the god’s abilities. Now Sakura wants to use her powers to take revenge. She’s filled with rage, though, and has little discipline and could be a serious danger to everyone. Any warlord she chooses to ally with would have control over all of the Japanese islands. If she chooses anyone at all, that is.

Is there magic?

Magic in this world is done via spells written on slips of paper called ofuda. Most magic tends to be warding against evil spirits or protective charms. There are, however, stranger magical powers that can be learned from the creatures of Yomi. Though few in this world are aware of them.

Sakura’s ability to control fire and magma can be considered a kind of magic, but I tried to make it function somewhat scientifically. In essence she is able to excite the molecular bonds in any object, causing rock to become molten and hot, or causing objects to oxidize rapidly (i.e. burn). And yes, this also means she can potentially cause items to simply rust, though she hasn’t figured that out just yet.

Are there any magical creatures?

Since this is a fantastic version of Earth, the dominant inhabitants are humans. However, plenty of monsters- called “yokai” in Japanese- do inhabit this world, though they are exceedingly rare.

Most monsters and supernatural beings actually come from another world which is called Yomi by humans- though its inhabitants call it by many names.

Yomi serves as the underworld for mortals. Their spirits fall into the great dark sea surrounding Yomi and are picked up by beings called siko-me. Siko-me look like human women from the waist up, but like gigantic centipedes from the waist down. They bring the deceased to the palace of the Great Judge Emma-Dai-O, who will decide whether they go to one of the many Hells, Paradises or are sent back into the Wheel of Existence for another Reincarnation.

Though they have a frightening reputation among humans, their personalities aren’t all that different from mortals. Several siko-me are even the adopted sisters of the priestess Ikuko, and one of them develops a crush on Fumito.

Oni, or Japanese ogres, are another prominent non-human race. They too come from Yomi, though they are also one of the more common yokai in the human world. They are large and muscular and have skin in shades of blue, purple, red or black. They also often have prominent tusks and horns. Oni are seen as vicious monsters, and while it is true that many oni who come to the mortal world are marauders and bandits, overall oni are no more evil or malignant than humans.

Yurei, or ghosts, are common in the mortal world. They are trapped in the mortal world due to intense rage, sadness or other emotions that will not let them rest.

Noppera-bo or “Faceless Ghosts” are a mysterious race of creatures rarely seen even by other yokai. They look like humans, but their faces are completely blank and smooth like eggs. They are the subject of several ghost stories, but few know their real goals. If they have any.

Is there a religious system in place?

Buddhism and Japanese Shinto (a kind of animistic religion) are the dominant religions in this part of the world. Shinto plays the larger role in people’s everyday lives since they are always trying to gain favors from the kami (Shinto gods) or ward off spirits and ghosts.

For the average person, Buddhism primarily comes into play in matters of death and the afterlife. Folks try to do good deeds to accumulate positive karma so that they will be reborn in a better life, or maybe even get to spend some time in a Paradise Realm. They believe that people who are cruel or who commit crimes against the Buddhist teachings will be punished on the Wheel of Existence by being sent to one of the Thousand Hells or reincarnating as an animal or demon.

However, many people also pray to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess (technically a boddhistava) of mercy and compassion. There is a lot of suffering and violence in this world, so a being like Kannon is much beloved by the average person struggling to survive.

What is one last thing you would like readers to know all about your world?

This is just the first in a series I’m planning to write. Other books will explore different cultures based on the peoples that live around the Pacific Ocean. Future stories will be set in Hawai’i, Korea, the Aleutian Islands, Mesoamerica, Indonesia and other places. I’m even planning stories that will explore the realms of beings that live under the sea.

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Connect with John Meszaros:

Website: http://www.nocturnalseapress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26473499-at-yomi-s-gate

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