A MASK OF DESTRUCTION Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has been promoted to Japan’s elite Narcotics unit—and with this promotion comes a new partner, a new case, and new danger. The underboss of a powerful yakuza crime syndicate has put a price on her head, and he’ll lift the bounty only if she retrieves an ancient iron demon mask that was stolen from him in a daring raid. However, Mariko has no idea of the tumultuous past carried within the mask—or of its deadly link with the famed Inazuma blade she wields. The secret of this mask originated hundreds of years before Mariko was born, and over time the mask’s power has evolved to bend its owner toward destruction, stopping at nothing to obtain Inazuma steel. Mariko’s fallen sensei knew much of the mask’s hypnotic power and of its mysterious link to a murderous cult. Now Mariko must use his notes to find the mask before the cult can bring Tokyo to its knees—and before the underboss decides her time is up....
Steve Bein's Year of the Demon is a strong sequel to Daughter of the Sword and has the same careful research and plotting as the previous book. What it also has are the typical 'second book in a series' issues, but the writing is strong and the author has made a great effort to keep the reader and plot from being bogged down in the morass of having to wait for the next book in the series. Even so, there are storylines that are left unresolved, and if a reader isn't aware that there is going to be at least one more book in the series, they'll likely be annoyed by this fact.
That aside, the mix of thriller, urban fantasy with historical elements gives the story a freshness that sets it apart from certain fantasy tropes. Besides, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has a sword and she knows how to use it.
Having been promoted to an elite Narcotics unit, Mariko has a new partner, as well as new cases and adversaries. This would be quite enough for most people, but then there's the yakuza bounty on her head. Mariko can lift the bounty and keep her head if she finds a certain ancient mask that was stolen from the yakuza boss. But, the mask has its own secrets, and some of them are tied to the Inazuma blade that Mariko carries.
Apparently, the mask has been so twisted by power over the centuries that its owners are gripped by an obsession to acquire Inazuma steel. The mask's cult and the yakuza boss are all against Mariko, and she's got to figure out a way to stop them before they destroy the city and try to take her head.
The story follows more than one character’s point of view and jumps back and forth through time. Fortunately, it’s done well and readers shouldn’t find it confusing because every voice is distinctive and the transitions are necessary. All told, the author’s research has paid off in a story that manages to deal with history, a criminal vendetta and magic in a way that ties them together into an entertaining read.