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