Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa – A Review

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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Fantasy | Young Adult | Japanese-Inspired
Published by Harlequin Teen
Released October 2nd, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

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I’m very, very behind on reviews. I decided to re-read Shadow of the Fox during FantasyAThon Round 2 back in December. One of the prompts for the readathon was to finish a fantasy that you started but didn’t finish. I had attempted to read this book initially after receiving it in an OwlCrate around the time that it was released. I didn’t get that far into it that first time and eventually DNF-ed it. It wasn’t that the book was bad, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for a fantasy novel at the time.

I am so glad that I picked Shadow of the Fox up again because the second time around, I loved it. I just got the sequel, Soul of the Sword, from the library. The third and final book, Night of the Dragon, is coming out at the end of March 2020.

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Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox is the first book in a Japanese-inspired young adult fantasy trilogy. Our heroine is Yumeko, a teenager who is half human and half kitsune (the Japanese word for fox). She has fox magic and is being raised at the Silent Winds temple by a group of monks.

The Silent Winds temple holds a secret that Yumeko is unaware of, until one day they’re attacked by a horde of demons and the head Monk sends her away with a scroll that she has to save, or else the world will be plunged into darkness and evil.

As Yumeko flees, she meets a samurai named Kage Tatsumi, and they form a pact to travel together. Kage has secrets of his own, however, and Yumeko slowly learns that he’s more than she at first expected.

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A 19th-Century painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicting a kitsune

The plot as a whole is simple, as it’s a group of people going on a quest together to prevent the end of the world. Yes, it’s been done a thousand times, but I personally adore quest and adventure fantasies (there’s a reason that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are my favorite books).

The whole story was engaging and I fell in love with Yumeko’s character. Her growth as a character was extraordinary, beginning as a mischievous girl with fox magic to a warrior in her own right. She’s initially just thrust into an important position that she was in no way prepared for, and despite the fear she felt, she did what she had to in order to protect the scroll. I’m very excited to see how Yumeko continues to grow in the second and third books in the trilogy.

I also enjoyed Kage’s character, in a different way. He’s mysterious, and also has an interesting character arc. I’m hesitant to say too much about his arc because of the spoilers involved in the story, but his tale is just as fascinating as Yumeko’s.

The most intriguing part of the entire book for me was the elements of Japanese folklore that Julie Kagawa wove throughout the story. The demons, hungry ghosts, and other creatures fascinated me, mainly because I haven’t read many Japanese-inspired fantasy novels. I loved it so much that it certainly won’t be the last that I read.

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The slow-burn friendship and romance of Yumeko and Kage were very well-done. In a lot of young adult fantasies, there’s a tendency for the author to write insta-love type romances, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. Kagawa crafted their relationship so artfully that the reader really gets drawn into it.

Within the first fifty pages, one aspect of the novel that got on my nerves was that the chapters are told from multiple perspectives, but you’re not told who is narrating. You have to just figure it out. As the novel progressed, it became much easier to pick out who the narrator was right away, but for the first several chapters it was incredibly confusing.

Although Shadow of the Fox has some basic and common elements of young adult fantasy that might wear on people, overall I recommend the novel to people who want to explore a fantasy world not based on European aesthetics. I’m eagerly looking forward to finishing the trilogy this year.


Have you read Shadow of the Fox? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!




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FantasyAThon Round 2 TBR

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There’s nothing like a fun readathon to finish the year with!

Many of you know that fantasy is my favorite genre, so as soon as I heard about the second round of FantasyAThon, I started working on my TBR!

FantasyAThon was started by Madi at The Book Pusher, and this year is being co-hosted by Ali from Ali Corvere Books and Julie from Pages and Pens. If you’re interested in their TBR videos, here they are:

The readathon will be starting on December 13 and finishing up on December 22. This means that participants will have two full weekends to get reading done, which I’m thankful for.

Here are the challenges:

  • Read a diverse fantasy
  • Read a debut or backlist title
  • Start a new series or read on in a series
  • Read a hype train fantasy
  • Finish a fantasy you started but didn’t finish
  • Read a fantasy in a format you don’t normally read
  • Read one of the hosts’ favorite fantasies
  • BONUS: read Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw

My official TBR for the FantasyAThon contains four books, including Winterwood, but if I have time, I’ll try to read more. 


Here is my official FantasyAThon TBR: 

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Completes the following challenges:

  • Read a hype train fantasy
  • Read a hosts’ favorite (Ali Corvere’s)
  • Start a new series

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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Completes the following challenges:

  • Read a diverse fantasy
  • Finish a fantasy you started but didn’t finish
  • Read a backlist title

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Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Completes the following challenge:

  • Read a fantasy in a format you don’t normally read

I very rarely listen to audiobooks, although I want to learn to love them. I’ll be listening to the audiobook version of this novel.


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Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Completes the following challenge:

  • BONUS: read Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw

For Winterwood, I would like to read it, but it all depends on whether or not I get it from my library or not. I’m currently on a book-buying ban for financial reasons, and it’s currently on-order at my library with two holds ahead of me. I doubt I’ll get to it, but hopefully, it’ll work out.


Are you planning on participating in FantasyAThon? If so, what books are you planning on reading?




 

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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore – A Review

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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore
Fantasy | Novella
Self-published
Published
Goodreads
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ebook of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’ll read pretty much any book that includes dragons, so when S.F. Claymore reached out to me to review this fantasy novella, I immediately said yes. It’s a prelude to his novel Champion’s Rising (Champion of Psykoria Book 1)

I wanted so badly to like this, but it didn’t work out. This is a novella, so it’s a very short read, and obviously, novellas are not going to be as detailed as a full-length novel. Despite that, I just found myself thinking that the story felt unfinished.

There were several issues I found with this story that prompted me to give it just a 1.5-star rating. First, I felt like I was reading a first draft or an outline of a story, not something finished. The story progressed quickly, but at the price of sacrificing any kind of character development and world-building.

As a result, this story was very one-dimensional and flat. I had no connection to any of the characters, and King Breetor was just a generic fantasy king on a quest – a quest that made little sense due to the lack of world-building. Essentially, to prove his worth to his council, he has to find a dragon and bring back proof of their existence. Despite dragons helping them in a previous war. Despite his having soldiers that he could send so that he wouldn’t have to leave his kingdom for several years. The story just didn’t make sense to me.

Perhaps in the novel, Champion’s Rising, the story and world-building will be better. However, based on how I felt about this novella, I probably won’t be reading it.



Looking for some fantasy books to read?

Roar | The Tea-Dragon Society | The Way of Kings | An Ember in the Ashes | The Boneless Mercies




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10 Fantasy Series I Want to Read

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Fantasy has been my favorite genre of literature since I was a child. I love whimsy, new worlds, magic, swords, and so many other classic elements of fantasy.

It’s the genre that I read most frequently, but there are so many fantasy series that I still need to read. Here are the ten that I’m most excited about!



The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson

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I discovered my love of Brandon Sanderson at the very beginning of 2019 when I read the first two books in the Stormlight Archives series, The Way of Kings and Words of RadianceAlthough I can’t imagine loving anything more than the Stormlight Archives series, I’ve heard that the Mistborn series is the favorite of many Brandon Sanderson fans. I know it’ll probably take me a long time to get through, as it’s a seven book series and Sanderson tends to write long books, but I know it’ll be worth it.


The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

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The first book in this series, The Eye of the World, came out in 1990, and I’m surprised that I’ve never read this. There are fourteen books in this series, and it’s high fantasy, so I have a feeling I’ll really enjoy it.


The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

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Out of all the series on this list, this is the one that I’m most surprised I haven’t read yet. I was never a gamer growing up, but all of that changed when a friend introduced me to The Witcher 3. The game literally blew my mind. The landscape is gorgeous, the story is fascinating, the gameplay is exciting, and you can play the game over and over again and still not see everything. I purchased a PS4 just so I could buy and play this game. I have the first few books in the series, and I have absolutely no idea why I’ve been putting it off. I know I’m going to enjoy the series immensely.


The Broken Earth by N.K. Jemisin

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I keep hearing really good things about this fantasy/science fiction series, and it has some post-apocalyptic elements, so I really need to read this. Plus, I keep hearing that N.K. Jemisin writes beautifully, and I want to experience that.


Legends of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong

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Back when I first started this blog, I did some research on Chinese literature because it’s something that interests me. (psst, Meonicorn over at The Bookish Land did a great guest post on Chinese literature!) I came across this series and kept seeing the author referred to as the greatest Chinese fantasy writer. There’s a new translation of this series coming out starting with the first book, A Hero Bornbeing released in September. I requested and was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publisher, so there will be a review coming within the next month!


Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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I recently read V.E. Schwab’s Vicious and adored it, just like I loved her middle-grade novel, City of GhostsThis series deals with parallel universes, which is a topic that I’ve always loved in fantasy, so I can’t wait to read this series!


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Last year on Black Friday, Book Outlet had a massive sale and I bought a copy of Caraval, the first book in a trilogy. It’s been sitting in my TBR pile all this time and I haven’t found time to read it yet. The third and final book in the series, Finale, was released back in May 2019, and now that the whole trilogy is out it might be fun to binge through the whole thing.


The Witchlands by Susan Dennard

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I’ve always had a soft spot for witchy fantasy books, so this is an obvious addition to the list. I first heard about this series from a few of my favorite fantasy-loving booktubers, and this is one that I definitely want to read sooner rather than later.


The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

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This is one of those books that literally pop up in every single fantasy recommendations list. It’s a modern classic, and I know I’ll be reading this soon – I just bought a copy, so look for a review sometime in the next month or so!


The Magicians by Lev Grossman

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Booktuber Chelsea Palmer introduced me to this series, and it sounds amazing! While most of the fantasy I read is high fantasy, this is urban fantasy, so it’ll be a subgenre that’s relatively new to me. It also sounds really dark, which is always a win for me!


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Want some more fantasy recommendations?

Six of Crows | Roar | Furthermore | An Ember in the Ashes | The Light Between Worlds




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Roar by Cora Carmack – A Review

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Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack
Fantasy
Published by Tor Teen
Released June 13, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Cora Carmack’s Roar is a book that has been on my radar for a while because the weather-based magic system sounded really cool. I finally made time for it this month, as it’s the chosen book for Chelsea Palmer‘s Page Turners book club. It’s perfect timing, as the sequel, Rageis being released on August 27th (and yes, I’ve already pre-ordered it!).

Roar takes place in a fantasy world dominated by storms. These powerful storms are controlled by Stormling families, who use stormhearts (stones gathered by besting various types of storms) to do so.

Aurora Pavan is a princess and the heir to the Pavan empire, and as such is meant to have storm magic. However, Aurora has kept her lack of magic secret from the world. When we meet her in the story, she’s about to be wed to Cassius, one of the princes from the Locke kingdom, and Aurora is nervous about his finding out that she does not have storm magic. Aurora decides to flee her castle prior to the wedding and join a roaming band of storm hunters after learning that even people born without innate magical abilities are able to learn magic.

I loved this book and was disappointed that I would have to wait a month to read book two. This is the second fantasy book I’ve read that involved weather and storms in a major way (the first being Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series), and that’s something that has excited me so much. Why? Because I’ve been obsessed with the weather since I was in second grade.

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When I say I was obsessed, I mean it. I once wrote a fan letter to a local news meteorologist. I’ve always wanted to be a meteorologist and, if I can ever figure out how to pay for it, will go back to school to do so. When I was a child I was somewhat afraid of storms (especially severe thunderstorms), but that fear eventually grew into an intense fascination. In third grade, my classroom had a computer game where you could make your own forecast maps, and I dominated that computer. My teacher would have to make me get up in order to give my peers a chance to play something. Also, I’m still just as obsessed. I have a really expensive hobby of buying and reading atmospheric science textbooks for fun.

Anyway, I really like weather. The storm magic in this book was really well-done and interesting and made this young adult fantasy novel really stand out in what has become a very saturated market. In the novel, we start to learn that Aurora reacts strangely to storms, and the mystery of why kept me consuming the novel as fast as I could to discover the answers.

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The characters in the book are a lot of fun, especially the band of storm hunters that Aurora joins up with. They’re all very distinct characters, and I hope we learn more of each of their backstories in Rage. The only character that I took some issue with was Locke, Aurora’s love interest and the person tasked with training her to become a hunter. He was rough in his handling of Aurora and was often cruel to her for no reason except some baggage that he was carrying from his past, and that rubbed me the wrong way.

Throughout the novel, Aurora keeps her real identity a secret from the group of storm hunters that she’s joined up with. Going by Roar instead of Aurora, all they know about her is that she has really bad trust issues and reacts strangely to storms. This aspect of her character did annoy me after a while, as she learns so much about the other people that she’s traveling with, but she refuses to tell them anything about herself. After a while, her trust issues and secrecy got a bit annoying, especially since it seems to all be based on the one week or so that she knew her husband-to-be Cassius, and she found out that he wasn’t marrying her for love (which, no shit. You’ve never met one another, so of course, it’s a political marriage).

One last note, I feel like Cora Carmack may have pulled a little too much from Marvel’s storm goddess, Storm. Why? The similarities are pretty obvious. Aurora Pavan vs Ororo Munroe, both have stark white hair, both of them control the weather. The character just made me think so much of Storm, but perhaps that’s just because I’m a huge Marvel fan and Storm is one of my top five favorite X-Men characters.

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If you want to read an original, exciting young adult fantasy novel, look no further. Roar will satisfy you immensely, and hopefully, leave you wondering how in the hell you’re going to wait until the end of August to find out what happens next.


Have you read Roar? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!




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A Shifting of Stars (Of Stars, #1) by Kathy Kimbray – A Review

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A Shifting of Stars (Of Stars, #1) by Kathy Kimbray
Fantasy | Young Adult
Self-Published
Released May 28, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I was fortunate enough to be sent a free e-ARC of A Shifting of Stars from the author, along with the opportunity to participate in her cover reveal.

A Shifting of Stars is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy. Our heroine in the story is Meadow Sircha, who watched her mother die from a wilting sickness as their emperor squandered the money of their kingdom instead of bringing life-saving medicine into their communities.

One night, Meadow takes a chance and shows up at the Gathering of Wordsmiths, an underground poetry/story community, and gets in front of the crowd to take a stand against the emperor and his famed gladiator fights. When she is finished, another member of the audience is inspired, and follows her onto the stage, sharing his own tale of misfortune at the hands of the empire.

Their cries for revolution are overheard by the emperor’s son, Prince Malthe, who happens to be traveling past. Meadow is arrested alongside the owner of the establishment where she spoke out, and they are taken to the city to be imprisoned.

From there, Meadow is rescued by members of the Emperor’s palace staff. Before she can get out of the castle, however, she discovers that Prince Malthe has a very dark secret. She also finds out, much to her horror, that her father has been arrested at Prince Malthe’s request.

As Meadow escapes the palace’s walls, she is aided by two boys that she recognizes from the Gathering of Wordsmiths – Vogel and Casper. They promise to help Meadow free her father, along with Meadow’s best friend, Anai. The journey is a long one, and they have to pass through the Sparselands, a forest that is generally avoided due to unknown dark magic.

I was hooked from the first chapter, as I love books that begin in desolate or dark settings. We first meet Meadow as she makes her way to the establishment where she wants to share her story, walking along streets where…

“…buildings cringe with moss. Walkways glisten with dirty puddles. Teetering balconies slouch from walls with garments strung between casements like cobwebs.”

Another aspect that is revealed about Meadow early on is that she has lost her mother, something that made me feel empathy towards her character. As I’ve written about before, my own Mother died nine years ago, and when I read about a character expressing the same feelings I’ve been dealing with all these years, it always serves to attach me to them.

“…I need to release my sorrow. To reclaim my spirit. To make things better. Since losing Mother, I’ve barely slept, never mind being able to rise with the sun. I’ve missed so many days at the market that my father has often picked up my slack, working longer than he should to bring in more coin.”

That last quote – I know that pain well. After my mother died, I missed days and days of work, I struggled to get out of bed, and it was like the whole world lost meaning to me for weeks.

I enjoyed the characters in the story, although Meadow’s love interest was predictable. While I could have done without that budding romance, the rest of the story was great.

I won’t be giving any spoilers away in this review, but I was absolutely not expecting the ending! I was shocked by it, but it was a twist that I haven’t encountered often, so it was refreshing. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy!




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The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth – A Review

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The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Young Adult | Fantasy | Portal Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Harper Teen
Released October 23, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I remember the first time I heard of The Light Between Worlds – it was in a booktube video about new releases. As soon as I heard the premise I added it to my TBR because it sounded so unique. I couldn’t believe that no one had done it before.

The plot focuses on three siblings: Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie Hapwell. They find themselves seeking safety in an air raid shelter during World War II, and something completely unexpected happens – they open their eyes to find they’re standing in a forest with a stag walking towards them. They’d been called to the Woodlands by Cervus, the guardian of the Woodlands. The siblings spend several years in this fantasy world, aiding the Woodlanders in their own war.

This book isn’t about their story in that fantasy world, though. It’s about how they deal with coming back to the real world. As I already stated, I can’t believe no one has done this before (that I’m aware of), because it’s an amazing plot. We’re always so focused on the magical lands that our characters find themselves in that we never take a moment to consider what their lives are like once they come back to their normal, everyday lives.

The first half of the novel is told from the point of view of the younger sister, Evelyn, and the latter half is in the words of Philippa. Evelyn has struggled with the transition back to her real life and only wants to go back to the Woodlands.

This book had very strong Narnia vibes, which is part of the reason I loved it. I grew up reading portal fantasy such as the Narnia book, and Laura E. Weymouth did an incredible job of turning such an over-used type of story and forming something unique and new with it. This is the author’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in the future.

I really enjoyed the dual timelines. For the most part, each chapter alternates between Evelyn trying to keep her head above water in her real life and what it was like being in the Woodlands. Even though the Woodlands are fighting a war against a ruler who is trying to take over the forest to use for fuel for another war that he’s fighting, Evelyn still finds so much beauty in that world and feels at home there.

“Why are there always people who want to own everything good and bright in the world, and destroy those things if they can’t be bought? Isn’t it enough to just know such things are there?”

There was one aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy, and that was the romances of both Evelyn and Philippa. Both romances felt very insta-lovey and there was absolutely no build up to these relationships. In each case, the girls find a nice, well-mannered boy who is willing to take care of her and suddenly they’re dating. I don’t think these romances were needed at all, and they just made the novel feel fluffier than need be.

One unexpected aspect of this book is that it made me feel incredibly homesick. I found myself dreaming of the city where I spent my 20s and missing it so much. It’s not to be unexpected, as the novel deals with finding where you feel most at home, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen. It actually made me enjoy the book even more since I always love it when a book makes me feel so much emotion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and can see myself re-reading it in the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun to read and reminded me of what it means to feel at home.