Title: Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 464 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on September 24th, 2018
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.
I received this for review in January, and as the sequel is coming out this month, I thought I’d time my read of it so that the wait for the next book wouldn’t be as long and agonizing. GOOD CALL BY ME. On one hand, I’m shaking myself for not reading this the second I got hold of it because my goodness, it is amazing and a contender for my favorite book of 2019. ❤ On the other, I’m quivering with impatience and dying for the sequel already (due out June 17th!) so waiting was probably for the best!
If you haven’t seen this around, the book is an #ownvoices Japanese-inspired fantasy that focuses on Yumeko, a half-kitsune, who was raised at a temple which safeguarded a piece of an ancient scroll that could be used to summon the Great Dragon to grant a wish, giving the summoner unimaginable power to reshape the world. When the temple comes under attack by demons who seek the scroll, Yumeko is entrusted with its safety and sent out into the real world for the first time. While she has some fox magic, she’s still a sheltered young woman with limited ability to protect herself in encounters with the demon hordes that have been sent to retrieve the scroll. Fortunately, that’s where Tatsumi comes in – as the Kage demonslayer, he’s perfectly qualified to protect her! As for whether he’s willing to do so, well, that’s where things get tricky…
What I love about Yumeko is how she’s so clever and quick on her feet – very fitting given her kitsune side! She may appear to be a helpless peasant girl, but she’s fabulously cunning and uses her wits and intuition to escape danger. I have read more than a few books where the protagonist is meant to be this badass assassin and yet turns into a damsel who has to be rescued over and over, so reading Shadow of the Fox where Yumeko could easily have been the passive damsel in distress, but avoids that trope through skillful writing where it’s entirely in character and believable that she can rescue herself…*chef’s kiss* PERFECTION. ❤
Yumeko may not be able to wield a sword, but she sees Tatsumi killing demons with ease and makes an alliance with him to keep her safe on the road in exchange for leading him to a secret temple where a piece of the scroll is hidden. Now Tatsumi protecting her doesn’t weaken her character, it’s a sign of her agency in using the resources available to her and spinning a tale on the spur of the moment to sway him to her side. And as they continue to face dangers on their journey, Tatsumi isn’t carrying the weight alone, Yumeko continues to use her instincts, compassion and keen observation to help him as much as he does her. It’s a beautiful partnership!
As for Tatsumi…I love the trope of emotionless fighting machines being paired up by circumstance with feisty ladies filled with exuberance and passion and a drive to help others, which slowly but surely wears down the formerly ice cold and purely calculating assassin/android/what-have-you, who comes to experience ~feelings~ and ~emotions~ THIS IS EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WANTED, and Shadow of the Fox provides this in spades. My cup of joy runneth over, honestly. Tatsumi has been groomed his whole life not to feel anything, not to care about anyone, to withstand pain and abuse and to continue serving a clan who heartlessly uses him as a tool, wielding a sword that contains a trapped demon inside which gives him powerful abilities but also the possibility of succumbing to the demon and being possessed. Yikes! He’s never been allowed to have a friend or spend time long enough with someone his age to develop a connection, but because Yumeko can lead him to the scroll that is his mission, he reluctantly allies himself with her…and you can see where this is going!
My favorite thing is slow-burn romance, so slow that you can barely tell it’s happening, that’s why enemies-to-lovers is the dynamic I seek out because the tension in that dynamic means that the characters have more to overcome in order to get along with each other before any potential romance can develop. And the author absolutely does this justice here – there’s not even a hint of insta-love, Yumeko and Tatsumi are both focused on their respective agendas and teaming up out of convenience and necessity. But of course as they fight side by side, Tatsumi develops a begrudging respect for Yumeko, and she has been raised to be open and bubbly and caring, so she’s curious to know more about him. It’s so pure and delightful and heartwarming to see her gently breaking down his boundaries, even as Tatsumi struggles to keep a distance between them.
The best part is that the story isn’t ONLY focused on these two characters, as much as I’ve babbled on about them! I find it a bit claustrophobic when authors have such a narrow focus only on the OTP, and thankfully that’s not the case here, we have a fun team dynamic as Yumeko picks up strays on the way! I adore how her friendly warmth and sneaky wiles are both employed to make friends out of potential enemies and increase their traveling numbers. It’s like her superpower is FRIENDSHIP and I’m all for it.
This may all sound very light and fluffy, but make no mistake, there is a ton of violence and gore. The demon horde carves a bloody and brutal path through any humans in their way and you should be prepared for graphic depictions of death as well as the aforementioned abuse that Tatsumi endures at the hands of his clan handlers. I’m not a fan of books that are dark and gritty for the sake of it, but this has a great balance between light-hearted fluffy moments and horrifying gory moments that make the stakes sink in. The fate of the world is in the balance, after all! I enjoy the team’s fun adventures along the way (with more than a few hair-raising heart-pounding near-fatal encounters), but there are some seriously dark and unpredictable twists and turns later in the book as things get more serious.
The writing is beautiful in that it’s simple, evocative and tantalizing. I found it very easy to slip into this magical new world and I could see this being a movie as many scenes conjure up strong visuals in the mind’s eye! Just the descriptions of the countryside made me feel like I was travelling along with these characters.
It’s probably a bit easier if you’re familiar with anime, and I think newcomers may find it a little tricky at first getting used to the Japanese terminology that’s incorporated, but FYI, there’s a handy glossary at the end, so refer to that if you’re a bit lost! It’s pretty easy to pick up from context, though.
I ended this with my mind blown, there were quite a few blindsides and it was FANTASTIC. I’m totally in love with this, whole-heartedly recommend it and cannot WAIT for what’s next!
Pros: unique and fabulous female protagonist, irresistible broody assassin, delicious slow-burn romance, fun banter, delightful team dynamic, amazing world-building, epic adventures
Cons: may take a while to adjust to the complex Japanese mythology and lingo
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by the publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
7 thoughts on “Book Review – ‘Shadow of the Fox’ by Julie Kagawa”
You’ve completely sold me! I’m not sure how I missed this, but I need to get a copy soon😁
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hurray, I’m so excited! I thought I would probably be the only person who hadn’t read it before this week, but I’m glad I could entice you, hehe ❤
I agree: I’m completely sold. Whenever I read books with amazing female characters, I tend to resort to the same adjectives: strong, independent, badass. But why are those the only admirable traits? I like what you said about the character using her resources and cleverness. I’m going to see if my library has this book.
I loved this book! And not least because of KITSUNE!!! Can’t wait to read the next one 😀
I sooo wanted to get to this last year but didn’t have the time. This year hopefully! I’m so happy to hear that the romance is not only slow-burn, but GOOD. And as usual, your gifs are perfect! *squees at Madoka*
Wow, violence and gore?? Slow burn romance?? I might have to give this one a shot! I don’t think i have a copy of this one actually. Is it going to be a duology or a trilogy?
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