Hello Humans! It doesn’t feel too long ago that I was reviewing Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox. I was taken by Yumeko, the half-kitsune peasant girl caught up in something bigger than herself, and I was excited to read the second book. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long for Soul of the Sword, following on from the dramatic conclusion of book one. Read on to hear my thoughts, will this book suffer from the dreaded second-book-slump?
One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.
Now he has broken free.
Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.
Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.
As I say, this book follows on pretty much directly from the events of the first book, so if you haven’t read that yet be warned, here be spoilers (though I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler-free for Soul of the Sword).
One thing that always interests me when reading a sequel is whether or not one has to re-read the previous book in order to understand what’s going on. In general, I find the answer is ‘no but it would probably help’. In this case the same is true, you can quite quickly remember what happened in book one and who you’re meant to care about, but I do expect it would be a quicker start if you already have that information. If you have the time and inclination a re-read might be beneficial.
That wasn’t the route I took, however, and while it was a little slow to start as a result I don’t think it did me any harm. Once you get back into the swing of the various points of view it’s not too taxing.
I liked that, at least Yumeko’s point of view, felt more like a journey than anything else. You got a real sense of the distance these characters were travelling and the various stops and challenges along the way. Often with books that feature journeys as the main driver of the plot, I find it hard to visualise the distance and difficulties, but Kagawa manages to capture that ‘travelling’ vibe.
One thing that I was less keen on was the ‘romance’ aspect of the story. I didn’t mind it so much in book one but I got slightly annoyed at how many ‘oh Yumeko don’t you realise you have feelings for him’ ‘no surely this cannot be!’ there were. It’s possibly my least favourite way of building a romance when two characters don’t actually interact so perhaps I’m more averse to it than others might be. I think come book three (as yet untitled) this won’t be an issue at all, it’s just a product of the way this plot has worked out. Should the two characters actually have a conversation again in the third book I’m sure all my concerns will melt away.
I still think this is a wonderful world, the characters they encounter, the way that ‘magic’ works – it feels really rich and detailed. I really enjoyed reading both books in this series. I liked a lot of the conflict (internal and ‘real’), particularly I thought how Kagawa handled the idea of the villain’s motivation(s) was clever and well done. It’s nice to read a villain who isn’t purely ‘I want to rule everything because of reasons’.
Overall, not as strong as Shadow of the Fox but altogether a pretty good sequel. I’m left very excited to read the third book when it comes out because I feel like it will be an epic conclusion. So maybe we view book two as a literary calm before the storm?
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Soul of the Sword is available June 27th
What say you? What are some of your favourite ‘second books’? Let me know in the comments below!