Series: Shadow of the Fox (book #1)
Rating: 4.5 stars
“Once every thousand years… a wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.”
(I received this arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion)
Shadow of the Fox is an #ownvoices YA fantasy that was inspired by Japanese mythology, and essentially revolves around the search for The Scroll of a Thousand Prayers which has the power to call upon the great Kami Dragon who will grant its summoner a wish. A lot of folks are after this thing, and they’ll do anything to get it.
This is my second Julie Kagawa book. I reread The Iron King this year and even reviewed it here a couple months ago, so it was inevitable to draw a comparison between these two books to see how the author’s style and skill have progressed. I’ve said it in my other review that her book gave me a feeling of going through phases of a video game, and I felt the same way with this newest release. One event follows the next like mini contained arcs of story that go towards a bigger one. I feel like this could throw some people off and make the pacing seem a bit chunky or episodic at times, but personally that wasn’t something that bothered me because, like in a video game, I always knew something with high stakes would be coming up next.
Both books made me feel like they were much more about the journey and how it changed the characters, than actually getting to the end goal.
Shadow of the Fox is a multi-perspective book, and because of that it took me a few chapters to get going, since I had to meet the main characters first, but once I did I was into it. The first 3 chapters are from different povs, but for the majority of the story we follow only two, which are told in first person. I know a lot of people are not fans of multi-perspective, but I feel like for this story that was the right way to go. Since characters have different goals concerning the scroll and come from such opposite backgrounds, this helped paint a bigger picture for the situation and made the stakes go higher. We even get glimpses at what the bad guys are doing, and I think that was for the book’s benefit. There’s also the plus that you get to know the characters better, and the world view and impressions on newcomers were not limited to only one perspective.
I came to really like these people and appreciate the development of their risky relationships, because thank goodness the author took its time to build them properly. That was a complaint I had about The Iron King, the need for more character moments, but I’m happy to say that Julie gave much more attention to that aspect this time around. I loved the main characters, and the fact that there’s no love triangle to be seen in this book.
“It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it.”
Yumeko is a kitsune – half-girl, half-demon fox – who was raised in a temple by monks. She could be naive at times, but she was also clever and a badass in her own way. She’s not a fighter, but she’s also not the kind of girl who sits around and hopes people will solve things for her. If she sees a tough situation that needs fixing, she will try to do something about it. Even if it’s a small thing, she always makes an effort to help out in any way she can, and I absolutely love that. Yumeko makes a few mistakes, but she mostly gets it right, and for all her effort she’s earned my respect.
Tatsumi is a shinobi (literally ninja in japanese) of the Shadow Clan, but he lets most people think he’s just a samurai warrior – which makes sense, if you’re a ninja people shouldn’t know that about you. He’s quiet and kind of broody, but he’s hella good with a sword and actually quite interesting as an individual (that’s funny since individuality is highly discouraged by his masters, to say the least). As the demonslayer of the Kage family and bearer of the cursed sword, Kamigoroshi – whose demon sealed in it frequently tries to take over his mind if he loses control of his emotions -, is no wonder that this dude keeps it to himself. Due to his super strict and brainwashy upbringing, it’s very interesting seeing him being forced to interact with other people and work with them in order to complete his mission. I particularly loved the fact that Tatsumi had a big reputation and he lived up to it. If he thought you were a threat or if he was ordered by his clan to kill you, I really felt he could, and that he would do it, even if he didn’t want to.
About the world, I think it was atmospheric and interesting. The country of Iwagoto really felt like a fantasy Japan from the samurai period. There was a lot of japanese words interwoven in the narrative, and because of that I feel like the author tried her best to ‘show’ things for the most part, but there was a lot for people to understand, so she also used a certain amount of ‘tell‘ to quickly explain things. Nothing that really bothered me, though. I do recognize that the frequent use of japanese could get confusing for people who, unlike me, aren’t really familiar with the language, but honestly, I don’t think that goes as far as to hurt the comprehention of the story. If you’re a fantasy reader, you should already be used to getting acquainted with a bunch of new words anyway, but perhaps there’s a glossary in the finalized edition.
If there’s not, just know that essentially family names come before first names as in Kage Tatsumi, and not “Tatsumi Kage“, also that honorific suffixes are often used after people’s names when adressing them (so you’ll see a lot of –san, –chan, and –sama here), gomen (nasai) means sorry, ohayou (gozaimasu) is good morning, baka is idiot, kami means god, arigatou (gozaimasu) is thank you, mahou is magic, mahou-tsukai is mage, and you should be mostly good to go.
About the plot, this is a journey, so don’t expect everything to be resolved here. This is part one of a triology, after all. The general idea is simple, get from point A to point B, then get to point C, but with a lot of deviation and trouble along the way. Here we only go as far as point B, though.
I’m very excited for the sequel, Soul of the Sword, and I can’t wait to get a finished copy of Shadow of the Fox as soon as possible. This book became a new favorite of mine, which was kind of unexpected to be honest. It’s great being surprised sometimes. Oh also I love watching anime, and this book had elements that reminded me of a few ones like Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona), Hiiro no Kakera, and even Dragon Ball (hello collecting artifacts to summon a dragon who can grant you a wish), which I really appreciated.
This book is out already so you can go grab your copy if you want it!
So have you read this book? Does it sound interesting to you? Let me know in the comments. 😀