Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on June 25, 2019
Genres: Action & Adventure, Young Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Diversity, Own Voices
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A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.
Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret--she's a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.
But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead--her gumiho soul--in the process.
Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl--he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He's drawn to her anyway.
With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon's.
If I could sum up Wicked Fox, it would be into two (both equally fantabulous) parts:
Part 1: Soft, Fluffy School Kdrama
The first part of the story starts with the introduction of Miyoung, a cold and calculated gumiho (nine tailed fox) who recently moved to Seoul with her equally beautiful, equally smart mother. But readers soon find out… she isn’t quite as cold and calculated as she tries to seem. She has a soft spot for human beings, while her mother has no such patience. This soft spot will become a weakness as she ends up saving Jihoon, a no-good high schooler who lives with his grandmother above her restaurant, and doesn’t take anything in life seriously – not school, not his future, and certainly not the existence of traditional stories/folklore… until Miyoung reveals her gumiho form to him. Suddenly, all the stories he read growing up are real, and beautiful, nine-tailed foxes exist.
What’s even more intriguing, she shows up as the new transfer student at his school.
She looked like a warrior queen, fierce and unforgiving. And as untouchable as the ghostly tails dancing behind her.
Miyoung is a well-developed, flawed girl who, quite honestly, just wants to make her mother happy. She has quite a prickly exterior, but really just wants friends and family – especially since she and her mother are constantly moving to protect their identities. To her mom, it’s always been “them vs us.” Humans against gumiho. The weak versus liars. But Miyoung, being half-gumiho, half-human, wants another way to survive. No- she KNOWS she is more than a cold-hearted killer. And readers follow her on her journey of self-discovery and growth.
‘I like being alone, Miyoung said. But she heard the lie in her voice. No matter how good she was at lying to others, she could never master the skill of lying to herself.
The mood in the very beginning is superrr adorable, because we have a prickly fox shying away from the boy she saved, while this boy pulls out his most charming – and suave – smiles. It’s super cute to see Miyoung’s reluctant smiles back, as well as their burgeoning friendship and, later on, romance. Their feelings felt natural as each slowly opened up to the other and, dare I say it: magical.
Part 2: Dark, Fantastical Angsty Kdrama
This part is embedded in hidden secrets being revealed, as well as a heavier incorporation of the magic that makes the story run. This part showed the most growth with Jihoon, as he picks up his life and recovers from a traumatic event. I think his character really shown in the latter half as he makes exceptionally difficult decisions regarding loved ones and family. I was a bit leery of this boy at first, but Part 2 solidified him as a character as we not only learn more about his past, but also see him grow into a (more mature) boy who secures his goals.
Story-wise, Part 2 goes at a pace of 100 km/min. There are a LOT of developments, and the tone was almost a different story in my opinion. But I didn’t mind, especially since there’s a small time skip between part 1 and part 2 (kdrama much?) and specific events were leading up to a darker story path. While I enjoyed the light, fluffy tone of part 1, part 2 was super exciting and got me flipping through the pages faster. Now I can’t wait for the next book!
With beautiful friendships that form, a super duper cute romance, and two main characters that go through so much growth and obstacles with each other, Wicked Fox embodies a YA urban fantasy story that readers are sure to devour. The interwoven Korean elements are well-done and tasteful (especially the food – yom!) and the vibrant setting of Seoul brought me across the world from the US to a totally different (and immersive, thanks to the writing) culture. Cho’s writing will keep readers sucked in the story, and Miyoung and Jihoon’s perfectly flawed personalities will keep them in it. I highly urge fantasy readers to pick this one up and get ready to sit down with plot twists and turns that keep your eyes glued to the pages!
Content/Trigger Warnings: mild violence, loss of loved ones, alcoholic beverages (although I believe theyu’re legal in S Korea), physical abuse, smoking
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Penguin Random House for the review copy!
Gumiho: Wicked Fox is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.