Hello Humans! Summer is (sort of) upon us and with that comes a whole host of new releases, my shelves (both digital and physical) are bowing under the weight of all these amazing new books! One such book is Gumiho: Wicked Fox – also known as Wicked Fox in the US – which caught my eye not only because of its striking cover but also the opportunity to read a fantasy YA novel set in Korea. Books in which the main character is in some way magical and has to hide it from the real world are usually hit or miss for me so I was a bit trepidatious but still excited to read this one!
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.
I know that a number of other early readers have compared this book to a K-Drama. I personally haven’t watched many K Dramas, not for lack of wanting to but because I tend to craft when I watch TV and that makes following along with subtitles a little difficult. However, I understand the concept enough to quite confidently state that the comparison is well deserved. This has all of those comforting tropes and shocking twists that make K-Dramas such a beloved ‘genre’.
That being said, Gumihoh: Wicked Fox, is more than just a comfort read, it has some serious worldbuilding and mythology backing up why things happen in the books. I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese/Japanese-inspired stories lately and I thought I would have had my fill of magical fox-spirits but actually, the Korean Gumiho is distinct enough from the Japanese Kitsune that it feels much more enriching. I realised how shockingly lacking my knowledge of Korean culture and mythology is and will certainly be seeking out more Korean fantasy in the near future. So yes, don’t write this book off as fluffy Ya fantasy romance – it is fluffy YA fantasy romance but it’s an exceptional example of doing that and doing it well, while also being MORE than that.
The romance was incredibly sweet. I felt like this was, despite the fantasy elements, a hugely believable YA romance. I liked that it wasn’t straight to ‘I will die for you’ but grew a little more organically than that. You get the feeling that these characters definitely care for each other but it isn’t quite the obsession that other YA romances tend to portray. I’ll be interested to see if that balance can be kept up in later books in the series?
Like some other reviewers, I found it was the epilogue that threw me a little, this book ends quite perfectly and in the space of a page or two everything is thrown into the air again, clearly paving the way for a sequel. I’m not sure this will be a negative for people, but I would have maybe liked a moment to breathe, to revel in the ending, before being thrust back into danger – that might be a matter of personal preference.
Overall, I think this book is exceptional. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, particularly the kind that takes place within the real world. I’d also recommend it as a great example of a book that takes place in a city outside the US or the UK. This book definitely felt like it came from a person who loved Seol, and it has inspired me to add it to my list of places I must travel one day (when we’ve worked out eco-friendly planes).
My rating: 4.5/5
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Gumiho: Wicked Fox publishes June 25th!