Shadow of the Fox, Julie Kagawa – Book Review

Hello humans! Those who follow me on Instagram may have seen me frantically finishing Shadow of the Fox so that I could review it for you today. I’m pleased to say that not only did I manage it, but I thought it was absolutely wonderful. This was one of those books that just captured some of the things I love about YA fantasy as a genre and I’m delighted to be able to review it before it publishes on November 1st (at least in the UK).

shadow of the fox julie kagawa

Goodreads Summary:

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.

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I’ve read one Julia Kagawa book in the past, Legionwhich was the start of a long train of me reading books in a series in the wrong order. I was, therefore, very excited to start this series from the beginning and OH BOY is it a great start. As I say, this book has a lot of elements that I absolutely adore.

Hidden magic? It’s got it. By coincidence, I recently read Empress of all Seasons which also draws inspiration from the idea of Yōkai, supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore. Shamefully, I knew very little about the Yōkai before reading both of these books but I’m certainly interested to find out more. In Shadow of the Fox, the main character Yumeko is one such Yōkai, as she is half Kitsune. One thing I enjoy in fantasy is when characters have to hide their own magic, especially when they have to hide it while on some kind of quest. In this case, it’s especially well done as at no point do you feel like Yumeko’s life would just be easier if she confessed her magical nature (I’m looking at you, BBC Merlin). Instead, the subterfuge feels very natural and makes sense within the story and it builds.

This is in part because Yumeko isn’t reduced to just being magical. She is a rounded character who happens to have magic. There are a number of well-written characters in this story and Yumeko’s varied character is a great example of how to create a character who is multifaceted.

But the product of that hidden magic is another one of my favourite aspects of this book, Yumeko can’t just magic her way out of every situation, she has to talk her way out and think her way out. I love creative problem solving, particularly in quest-based fantasy and this book does not disappoint.

The romance? I adored it. There’s something so profoundly classic about two characters gradually falling for each other as they make their way through a series of dangers. Some might say it is predictable, I say it’s more that it’s comforting in a way? I thought that the dramatic irony of knowing what Yumeko is hiding made it even more powerful. I also appreciated that the romance took its time. This is around a 400-page book, so middling in length, and the romance feels perfectly placed within the story to not feel too fast, but also it doesn’t feel crammed in at the end.

This is also helped by the fact that this book is dual POV, so you get both sides of the story, as it were. I thought that both characters were voiced well and I actually enjoyed both stories equally, which almost never happens.

I thought that the setting was done well. It’s not a book heavy in worldbuilding in the same way as some epic fantasy books are, it’s more that you learn elements of the world as and when you need to. In a story being told largely from the perspective of a character who grew up in an isolated temple, it’s not surprising that you learn this way, and I think it helps to keep the pace of the book up.

I don’t rate many books with five stars, at least I haven’t done this year, because often for me five stars is more of a gut feeling. It’s that feeling of being unable to put the book down, of letting the bath water go cold. It’s where you finish a book and you want to talk about it for the next few days, even to people who haven’t read it yet. This was absolutely one of those books.

My rating: 5/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Will you be reading Shadow of the Fox? Let me know in the comments below!

J

 

 

 

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