Review: Ebony Gate by Julia Vee & Ken Bebelle


Emiko Soong is a member of one of the world’s top magical families, but she never relied on magic. Instead, she was known as the Blade of the Soong Clan. However, after a gruesome incident in a Chinese market where she was covered in blood and surrounded by dead bodies, Emiko gave up her assassin lifestyle and settled in San Francisco where she imports antiques.

But her peaceful life is disrupted when a god of death, a shinigami, demands that Emiko repay a family debt by recovering the Ebony Gate, which holds back hungry ghosts from the underworld. If she fails, Emiko will lose her soul. Thus, the retired assassin must come out of retirement to save San Francisco from an army of the dead.


Sugiwara’s voice was low and terrible, the sound of waking nightmares. “I will not allow Miss Soong to be harmed.”

His eyes dropped to where the knife had pierced my side, blood welling around the wound. “Any further.”

Oh, so he was a comedian now.

Reading Ebony Gate was like watching an Asian action movie. It was action packed from start to finish with impressive world building, sprinkled with comic relief and beautifully crafted magic system based on east Asian lore and mythology. Although I felt disoriented at the beginning of this urban fantasy book as the authors kept throwing terminologies without explanation but as the story progressed this was remedied and I began to enjoy the story.

The backstory of the clans in Ebony Gate was highly engrossing, with the tale of the eight dragons being banished from ‘The Realm’ to the mortal world, and their descendants inheriting their respective dragon’s magical gift to form the eight clans with the ability to travel to fragments of the realm, across the Void through Doors. The book’s magic system was skillfully constructed and the magical creatures featured were well-explained, making for a highly immersive read. The world building was also exceptional, as the authors took great care to explain the intricate details of Asian mythology in a way that would be easily understood by readers unfamiliar with it.

One aspect of the book that I found particularly admirable was how the authors portrayed the familial bonds of Asian families, despite the estrangement that often exists between family members. Additionally, the concept of the city Sentinel was highly intriguing, as it depicted how a city itself could bestow power upon a worthy individual to protect it.

Despite the numerous positive elements of The Ebony Gate, the book also had some notable flaws. For a book that explained so many things well, I never understood why Emiko was called The Butcher of Beijing because it was never explained. Also this entire book seemed like a stepping stone to a much larger picture because I never believed for a second that Emiko was without any power because of the fleeting flashbacks and the hints from the shinigami. I wished the authors tried to at least give us a glimpse of this bigger picture because I personally love a jaw dropping cliff hanger ending at the end of a first installment. Another thing I thought unnecessary was the huge cast of characters. It made it extremely difficult to remember names and the importance of their characters to the story.

Having said that, I liked all the main characters with their different and unique personalities. Emiko with her struggle to wanting a peaceful quiet life but wanting to fulfil her familial duty to her clan. Freddie reminded me a lot of my dear friend Jamie with his carefree happy go lucky self. Fiona was a tiny bundle of badass energy. Sally and Baby Ricky were so endearing. However, while I found Kamon as a shifter extremely intriguing, I was not convinced about the chemistry between him and Emiko. Same goes for Adam. At last but not in the least, a shout out to our adorable two hundred pound foo lion, Bao.

Wrapping up my review of Ebony Gate, I am eagerly anticipating the release of the next book in the series, which I am certain will be nothing short of awe-inspiring.

My sincere thanks to Netgally and Tor Publishing for providing me this advanced reader copy.


Quotes may change upon publication of the book.


Book Cover

Scroll to Top