Series: Shadow of the Fox #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on October 2, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Diversity, Romance, Action & Adventure
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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.
This is my first Julie Kagawa book (I know – a shame considering how popular her Iron Fey series was when I was in middle school!), but certainly not my last. Shadow of the Fox is an own voices story set in feudal Japan where demons called youkai roam the land and a treasured scroll is up for grabs, granting the wish of whoever can call on the great Kami Dragon. In the midst of all these fantastical elements lay a seemingly harmless girl, Yumeko, who is actually a kitsune. I absolutely adored Shadow of the Fox, and I know fantasy readers will too! The best comparison I can make, using anime (because the Japanese setting does bring me back to some of my well-loved shows) is the mythical creatures of Nurarihyon no Mago and the grand adventure and camaraderie in Rurouni Kenshin. The book is mostly composed of travel, but both demons and people stand in the way of Yumeko’s end goal to retrieve the scrolls. With some unlikely companions at her side, thus begins a riveting adventure where friendships and allies are challenged in the midst of strange magic.
Whoever left you at the gates of the temple knew this was coming, and that you would play a part in the tale, the fourth coming of the Dragon.
Thus beings the prophecy that Yumeko finds herself fulfilling in Shadow of the Fox. She’s pretty sheltered, growing up at a temple and mostly doing chores with the monks, but when a youkai attacks the temple and leaves it burning, she must drum up all her courage to seek out the remaining pieces of the scroll that could change her world. Along the way, she picks up a mysterious and reticent assassin, Tatsumi, who is as prickly and grumpy as he is skilled. His final goal is to get the scroll, but he doesn’t know that Yumeko has the first part. Their partnership starts with deception, and continues from there.
I loved all the characters in this book – including antagonist, demons, and supporting characters – but Tatsumi really struck my heart. You can tell he’s kind of a lost soul. He’s raised in a clan – the Shadow Clan – as a weapon and not as a person. When Yumeko is kind to him, he really doesn’t know what to do and is quite confused. It’s honestly so cute and wholesome. Yumeko, on the other hand, is his total opposite. She struggles to keep her kitsune form a secret, but still maintains a cheerful and optimistic outlook while traveling. I love their contrasting personalities, and how despite opposing worldviews and experiences, they are drawn to each other. The romance in this book is extremely slow burn – almost not even there. But in the absence of any grand gestures of exclamations, we have quieter, more intense feelings that are just waiting to be unleashed. And that is just *flame emoji*.
“You are a weapon; attachments will only slow you down and make you question your objective. Remember, your loyalty is to the Kage, nothing else.”
Yumeko herself was a blast to read about! I love how despite her initial, sheltered personality, she is smart and quick-witted in her decisions. Her fox magic is so delightful to read about too! Who knew what an advantage such mischievous abilities could have on her journey? The setting is absolutely dazzling, with rich forests and worn paths that will just immerse readers into the story. Kagawa’s writing was just absolutely entrancing, and I couldn’t put this book down.
Fox magic was nothing but illusion and trickery, Denga-san had seethed on more than one occasion, usually on the tail end of a prank. Nothing useful could ever come of it.
Shadow of the Fox is a gorgeous fantasy following characters in the realm of historical Japan striving towards their fate. However, what fate has in store for them may not match what they initially set out to accomplish. I loved reading about the cunning antagonist and the heroic journey our protagonists set out towards, as well as the witty dialogue that accompanied all the narratives. Like I said, I definitely will be going back to Kagawa’s numerous stories after reading this book. Fantasy readers will find both this setting and these characters refreshing as we are introduced to a magical world where demons – both good and bad – lay in wait for their next moment to seize.
Trigger/Content Warnings: physical and emotional abuse, heavy violence, blood and gore, manipulation, self harm
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you Harlequin Teen for the review copy!