Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: 4.25 stars
Synopsis: 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.
Shadow of the Fox is one of those books that I could never quite pin down my feelings on. From the time I started it to right now as I write this review, my rating has fluctuated from 3 stars, to 5 stars, to finally landing on 4.25 stars. I went into this book with fairly high expectations because I have been a fan of Julie Kagawa since I devoured her Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series many years ago. I am happy to say that my exceptions were met.
I think the issue most people will have with Shadow of the Fox is the pacing. And so did I…until I had an epiphany. This book reads like an anime series. I think it was at the scene with the bear and the cave that something just clicked in my head and screamed “This is like an anime!!” From there, I loved the journey we were being taken on. I’m not even a huge anime fan (with the exception of Cowboy Bebop and Shokugeki No Soma), so it wasn’t the fact that it’s like an anime that made me like it. My epiphany just made me understand the pacing more. I think if people who aren’t familiar with anime go into this book with the knowledge that it isn’t paced like your average YA fantasy novel, they will enjoy it more.
Yumeko, who I consider the main character, is sixteen-year-old half human and half kitsune who has been raised by the monks at the Silent Winds Temple. After her home is destroyed, she sets out on the journey the head monk of the Silent Winds Temple gave her before he died: take the temple’s portion of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to safety. On her journey she meets Kage Tatsumi, demon slayer of the Shadow Clan, and strikes a precarious bargain for him to travel with her as protection. Both are keeping secrets from the other and any slip of truth could destroy the tenuous alliance they have. Both Yumeko and Tatsumi have POV chapters and my BIGGEST issue with this book is the lack of indication that a POV has changed from chapter to chapter. Because the book is written in the first person it can take a minute to figure out whose POV we are reading at the beginning of each chapter. I got more used to it by the book’s end, but in the beginning, it really bothered me. I read this book with a book club and the POV switches were a problem for a lot of people in the group. Beyond Yumeko and Tatsumi, we are introduced to a host of secondary characters that bring mystery, danger, and whimsy to this story. My favorite of the secondary characters is definitely Okame and if any harm befalls this lovable ronin I WILL RIOT!
The thing that initially kicked my rating up to 5 stars for a while was the ending. It was SO GOOD! A certain part of it was predictable but the way it played out was not. There was action and betrayal and the promise for more story. AND THAT EPILOGUE OMG! I’m not sure how I’m expected to live while I wait for the next book, Soul of the Sword. All I can say, is I definitely have a pre-order already in.
At the end of the day, I settled into a 4.25 star rating because the POV issue and weird pacing. Even though I came to appreciate the pacing after a time, it still was rough in the beginning and can be a real make or break situation for a lot of people (there were a few people in my book club who DNFed this book because of pacing). I think this book would be good for fantasy lovers who are looking for a story that is structured a little differently from the typical YA fantasy.