Book Review: Yumi and the Nightmare Painter

Book Review: Yumi and the Nightmare PainterYumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson, Aliya Chen
Published by Dragonsteel Entertainment on July 1st 2023
Pages: 480
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#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings us a gripping story set in the Cosmere universe told by Hoid, where two people from incredibly different worlds must compromise and work together to save their worlds from ruin.
Yumi comes from a land of gardens, meditation, and spirits, while Painter lives in a world of darkness, technology, and nightmares. When their lives suddenly become intertwined in strange ways, can they put aside their differences and work together to uncover the mysteries of their situation and save each other’s communities from certain disaster?

I’ve been in a massive reading slump this year. Even books I’ve been anticipating or written by some of my favorite authors are difficult for me to finish. When my boyfriend told me that Yumi and the Nightmare Painter was inspired by one of my favorite video games of all time, Final Fantasy X, I decided to give it a try—I was immediately invested and read the entire book in a matter of days (my fastest reading experience all year). 


When I met the eponymous main characters, Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, named Nikaro, I immediately made the connection to Final Fantasy X, especially in the case of the former character. Yumi gave me such strong Yuna vibes. As the yoki-hijo, Yumi is one of the few that can commune with the spirits and ask them to help people in need. I found Yumi, like Yuna, to be incredibly sympathetic as a young woman with a fate bigger than herself, a strong sense of duty, and zero choices available to her.

“Yumi was one of the Chosen, picked at birth, granted the ability to influence the hijo, the spirits. It was an enormous honor among her people. And they never let her forget it.”

Nikaro is also a very human character with plenty of flaws. Though I never quite cared for him as much as Yumi, I was thrilled that even in his worst moments, he was never as obnoxious as Tidus in Final Fantasy X. Plus, there was nothing as cringe as That Laughing Scene. And watching Nikaro teach Yumi to enjoy life without guilt for experiencing it was very touching, much like Tidus’s relationship with Yuna.


“‘You were right,’ she said softly. ‘I shouldn’t have come here. I don’t…know how to be a person, Painter.

‘Well, maybe I was wrong. Because you need practice.’

‘I don’t need practice to become something I shouldn’t. I’m not a person, Painter.’

He frowned, looking toward her, ‘Of course you’re a person, Yumi.’
‘No, I’m a concept,’ she said. ‘A thing owned by society….””

I was really skeptical of the body swapping aspect of Yumi and the Nightmare Painter. I have seen this in K-dramas and anime before and I’ve never really liked the awkward situations that are forced to arise from it. However, I do think Sanderson handled this part of the story pretty respectfully—with Yumi and Painter technically swapping bodies, but still seeing themselves as them, and not the other person, when in the other body. Though I’m not a big fan of this swapping trope and could definitely see some anime/manga influences coming through, it worked for me in this novel.


The world-building in Yumi and the Nightmare Painter is not Sanderson’s best world-building, but it’s still very creative, as his work always is. There is quite a bit of information dumping in the beginning of the novel. And I think that if you need another narrator, (in this case, Hoid) to come in and basically say, “I know this is confusing, so let me break down the world-building again for you,” again later on in the novel, there’s a bit of a problem. Though I wouldn’t say this novel is the magnum opus of Sanderson’s world-building, the heart of the story and the characters more than make up for it.


“Because art is, and always has been, about what it does to us. To the one shaping it and the one experiencing it.”


Another great part of Yumi and the Nightmare Painter is the focus on the theme of art versus artificial intelligence. I think this is a really timely subject with the growing ubiquity of AI in our world. Even if it weren’t such a good time for this topic, I personally find AI to be a really interesting concept in general and one that we don’t see too often in a fantasy novel versus a science fiction novel.

I do have one pet peeve in Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, and it’s the utilization of Hoid. I really don’t care for the character in general and feel it’s a shame that the author continues to default back to this character as a plot device or tool for narration. In this novel, I really don’t feel this character’s inclusion was necessary at all–the novel could easily have been narrated by solely Yumi and Nikaro, but if another had to be included, I feel Design would have been more appropriate. Hoid’s constant little interjected comments definitely ruined the pacing and tension at times. I also didn’t care for the use of Hoid’s second person narration amidst the rest of the novel’s third person perspective. I know other people really love the character and find Hoid humorous and the easter egg of his appearance fun, but for me, he was certainly one of the lower points of the novel. I just didn’t understand why there was a need for his brand of humor in this more serious, heartfelt novel, especially when plenty of humor already arose from the situations in which Yumi and Nikaro found themselves.

Yumi and the Nightmare Painter had a really great ending. Even though I predicted a part of the ending, the actual experience of it brought me to tears. I would honestly say this is probably one of my favorites of Sanderson’s works and it reminded me a bit of Warbreaker, but with a faster pace, more focus on the romance, and more likeable characters. The unique blend of romance, fantasy, and even historical fiction works so well and I’d love to read more books like it in the future. Plus, there’s absolutely gorgeous illustrations inside of the book. I’d think Yumi and the Nightmare Painter is a great read for people who are already fans of Sanderson and for those who are not. I’d also recommend this to readers who enjoy fantasy, JRPGS, anime and manga, or K-dramas. Regardless of readers’ specific tastes, I believe there’s a little something for everyone in Yumi and the Nightmare Painter.



Book Review : Yumi and the Nightmare Painter - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 13, 2024 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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4 responses to “Book Review: Yumi and the Nightmare Painter

    • I think I might follow Robin on Goodreads. Does she have Bridge Four in her name? I also took place in the Kickstarter, just took me awhile to get to reading it. This one is definitely my favorite of the books so far 🙂

  1. I’m glad you’re back! Sorry to hear you’re in a book slump. I have this one on my tbr, i actually want to buy the physical copy for the illustrations same with Tress of The Emerald Sea, I have heard both are great.

    • Thank you! 😊 Hopefully I can get back into the groove of things soon. Oh my gosh, yes!! The illustrations in both are ✨gorgeous.✨ I kind of wish they came in posters 😂

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