REVIEW ✧ SHADOW OF THE FOX

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“It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it.”

☆☆☆☆

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 thought everyone was hyping this book up but now that I think about it, I don’t think that’s actually the case. Barely anyone on my Goodreads has read it, but there are a couple “to-reads” and I truly cannot remember if I’ve seen any reviews on here. So I’m here to tell you all that this is a book that we need to be talking about. I can’t remember the last time I was this obsessed or attached to a YA book, particularly such a fascinating fantasy YA novel such as this. I still remember the day I found it in the store and didn’t even have to finish reading the synopsis to know that I needed this book. Granted, it took me a bit to get to it given all that I had going on and when I did finally pick it up, it took me longer than I would’ve liked to finish it. But I’m gonna say that was my subconscious doing me a solid and allowing me to absorb and cherish the book in a way that didn’t have me rushing through it just for the sake of getting it read. I took my time, and it honestly made all the difference for me. There are a couple minor things that bothered me but as a whole, this book was pretty spectacular.

THE GOOD

  • I mentioned this a lot in my Goodreads review, but the Japanese folklore in this book was so fascinating! I always love mythology and folklore, and I love when fantasy novels utilize these things, but there’s something about Japanese folklore that is on its own level. I had a smidge of knowledge of it thanks to my Teen Wolf days but I’m glad that this book allowed me to explore even more of it. The way that Kagawa wove it throughout her book was done in such a way that never made me feel like it was overwhelming or that I was just having information thrown at me. There were times where it was explained in stories, in conversation, sometimes in a character’s inner monologue, and even off-hand comments. It was done so that the reader didn’t feel like they were getting a dumbed down explanation of the folklore and was presented in situations in which such tales and teachings would make sense. Other than that, just seeing things like kitsunes and other various levels of demons and ghosts really added to the entertainment. I loved watching Yumeko use her kitsune magic and remembering old memories of how she used to play tricks throughout her temple. And then there’s the various demons that showed up and tried to attack her and Tatsumi, seeing how there were so many different types and styles of demons that existed and could be summoned. Of course, there were the oni, which were some of the most terrifying demons. This is the kind of folklore and mythology that makes me excited to keep reading and see what else might come into play and I can’t wait to see what else Kagawa has in store for the rest of the series.
  • This book was full of amazing character dynamics but obviously the best was Yumeko and Tatsumi, our two heroes. The first thing that made me fall in love with Yumeko was how her being a kitsune was something that was never hidden from her and it wasn’t some kind of plot device where we’d later see her discover her powers and automatically be amazing at them. Instead, Yumeko was told what she was essentially since birth and was actually taught not only how to use her powers but how to find that balance between human and kitsune, since she was half of each. I’m kind of tired of the whole “they’re secretly something else” plot line so it was nice seeing this for a change. But Yumeko was just such a genuinely good character and while she did come from a relatively sheltered life in the temple and wasn’t great with social cues and conversation, like sarcasm for instance, she was perceived as being highly intelligent by whoever she came across. I loved her curiosity and how she still had this learning nature to her character that her questions for Tatsumi were purely because she wanted to know things about the world outside of the temple. There were also things about her personality that stemmed directly from her kitsune powers, how she had this cunning and deceptive streak about her, which made her able to fight back and come out on top in certain situations. She was a great protagonist. Then, on the other hand, we have Tatsumi. Oh my, my, Tatsumi. First of all, you give me a character that’s brought up to think he’s nothing and I WILL love and protect him. That’s it. But Tatsumi was also a very fascinating and complex character. He was brought up in such a way that never allowed him to understand positive feelings or attention and therefore is quite confused about Yumeko. But what’s great is how with her influence, we see him slowly start to think in a different way and watch his entire outlook begin to change. Their dynamic is one that is of complete opposites but also one that is good for each other. I believe Yumeko will bring Tatsumi out of his mind and out of the shadows. 
  • The plot of this book seemed to be very “get from point A to point B” type of thing, which is fine, but what I enjoyed was how it had a bit of a Wizard of Oz-esque feeling to it. By that, I mean that whenever Yumeko and Tatsumi encountered a new place, they managed to pick up someone new to join them on their journey. First there was Okame, the ronin, then Taiyo Daisuke, the noble, and finally Reika, the shrine maid. It was like Yumeko is the type of person who’d pick up stray dogs and care for them but Tatsumi is the stoic one that is against it but wants to keep her happy and therefore allows her to keep them. They created their own merry band of misfits but had such a strong group dynamic that I can’t wait to see being explored more. I love books that focus on group dynamics and I have high hopes for this particular one. They shouldn’t be working together and yet, they are. It’s beautiful.
  • I’m surprised at how I have no complaints about the very, very, faint hints of romance throughout this book. But on the other hand, if it was heavy on the romance I’d complain that it’s not the place or time for it. But I can see how this is gonna be one of those epic slowburn romances and I’m already feeling all of those emotions because I’m happy that Yumeko and Tatsumi aren’t romantically involved but also complaining that they’re not madly in love yet. But the embers are there for it and we just need more time for it to start to flourish into a burning flame. 
  • I’m not revealing any spoilers but the plot twist that involved the Big Bad was so epic that I almost screamed. I can’t remember the last time my heart was racing like that from a book ending like that.

THE BAD

  • While the world building of this book was quite good, and I have a good understanding of how this Japan is ruled and the main clans and all of that, I literally have no idea what time period this is supposed to be set it. Like, none whatsoever. I just assumed I was in some kind of Feudal Japan because that’s typically where these things are set but part of me also feels like that isn’t right. The only thing I understand is that wherever we are in time that the Dragon Scroll was created a thousand years prior. That’s good backstory and reasoning, but I would like to know from where we’re going a thousand years back from. Is it Ancient Japan? Feudal Japan? Modern day Japan? Future Japan? This is an important question. 
  • I was happy with the overall writing, of how it flowed in such a lovely way, but none of the POVs were ever explicitly stated and I just couldn’t believe that no one in the editing process questioned this. Like, we start the book with a third person POV, who is essentially a third party individual, in the prologue and the first chapter is Yumeko’s POV, with her alternating back and forth with Tatsumi from that moment on. You definitely get used to it as the book goes on, but upon first contact it’s so confusing for the reader. And it’s not quite like what I experienced in Three Dark Crowns where the POVs weren’t technically indicated by character, but by setting and that gave the reader the idea of who the focus would be on based on who was from there or where they were at the time of the story. But here? Nothing. This might just be a me thing, but I like having my POVs indicated. Why no one pointed this out or queried it is beyond me. “It’s an artistic choice to exclude POV indicators” uh, no, it’s confusing as hell. Label your POVs.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • This has to be one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a really long time, and we should all be talking about it. The plot itself is good, but the characters and their dynamics, as well as the unbelievably fascinating Japanese mythology and folklore, is what truly makes this book stand out. Give yourself time with this book. Absorb it. Cherish it. Love it. You will not regret one bit of it. Also, I got a new hot angsty brooding book boyfriend out of it. It’s great.

BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Pages: 409 (Hardcover)
Goodreads

Until next time,

What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!

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