こんにちは。/ Hello everyone! I’m back with another fantasy-read based on mythology and this time it’s Japanese Mythology!! Well, I actually wanted to read this book much earlier but now that the cherry blossom season is over I’m
a bit late (that’s not new, is it?). I decided weeks ago that I want to read Shadow of the Fox as a spring read to hopefully experience that specific reading atmosphere I love while also finally doing something for YARC 2019 (more info on that: #YARC 2019 🏮🐯🥢 | Joining a Reading Challenge! + Updates). Didn’t go that well but today’s the day. This might become a LONG blog post since I decided to do a discussion and let out all the feels, so I advise you to grab a cup of tea (green tea, maybe?) or a snack and I’ll start right away! (Please don’t forget that there’s a spoiler section which is highlighted at the end of the review!)
book 1 of the Shadow of the Fox Series
published October 2nd 2018
genre: young-adult, fantasy
shadow of the fox on goodreads ( •⌄• ू )✧
my rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ [original rating: 4.5]
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.
IT’S OFFICIAL, GUYS. I have found a new ya-fantasy novel I can call an all-time favorite by accident!! Well, I was just, you know, scrolling through the online page of my local book store when the cover and especially the kitsune mask on this book attracted my attention. Coincidentally, the hardcover of the book was on sale. (Thinking back I think that was a sign…) Naturally, I had to buy it after taking a quick look at the sypnosis. Not really knowing anything about the story line other than that Shadow of the Fox is about Japanese Mythology I jumped right into the world.
And, let me tell you something; I WAS HOOKED FROM THE FIRST CHAPTERS.
The reason I say “first chapters” and not “first chapter” here is that I was a bit confused by the very first chapter and had to slowly understand what is going on. Not that there are particularly many characters you have to remember in this book. No, there aren’t don’t worry. There’s something else: This book has DIFFERENT STORY LINES, in my opinion there are 3 separate ones that are ALL CONNECTED and alternating POV’S!
♡ What I loved about this book and why I loved it so much;
➼ THE BOOK BEING BASED ON JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY. // It’s so interesting just as the Japanese language, traditions and culture in general and I was very curious to know more about it. Before reading this book I already knew a few things about it and the Japanese phrases the author added to it were no problem at all since they are some really basic ones and I do watch anime (yup) but even if you don’t there’s always the help of the glossary at the end of the book. All those phrases, lanterns, temples, people bowing, wearing beautiful kimonos or eating traditional Japanese food and names made this book come to life. And, the Japanese myths themselves were really well integrated into the story: yokai (supernatural spirits, demons or monsters), oni, kami (gods), tanuki, yurei (ghost-like creatures), kitsune (foxes, a type of yokai) and many more. There’s even Jorogumo in it, a woman who looks really beautiful but has the body of a spider from down her waist. UGH. Shadow of the Fox addresses these tales which turns it into a fantastical read with a dangerous but mesmerizing world and if you like anime there’s a 90% chance that you’ll probably like this book as well.
➼ The idea of A SQUAD THAT GATHERS AND TRAVELS THROUGH THE COUNTRY, having to do DIFFERENT QUESTS AND MISSIONS. Shadow of the Fox = #squadgoals
➼ THE MEMBERS OF THIS SQUAD AKA THE CHARACTERS
“I have seen blood and flames and death, demons shrieking and rivers of bones, and the world grows dark with fear. But a single fox stands above it all, untouched, a great dragon cast in her shadow. Her name is Yumeko, child of dreams, for she is our hope against the coming darkness.”
↳ Yumeko 🦊 ━ You could say that she’s THE main character in this book and I would agree with you. Yumeko is half-kitsune, half-mortal which means that she looks like a normal girl, a beautiful one, who actully has fox ears and a tail that can only be seen by people who have something to do with the spirit world or when looking at a mirror or other shiny surfaces. She’s also a shapeshifter being able to transform herself into a fox only and she can summon kitsune-bi, blue fire (apparently all kitsune can do that, *naturally looking at sniffy Tomoe from the manga Kamisa Kiss*). She has a really strong bond with the spiritual world that comes in handy a lot of times. Yumeko is smart, ALWAYS curious (love that fact because it fits perfectly to her being half-kitsune), kind, extremely caring and brave. She knows that she’s not the best at fighting with bow and arrow or a sword but she has her own ways of getting out of a dangerous situation. And, she doesn’t understand sarcasm,
maybe because she’s been raised by monks, but she’s getting better at it! Yumeko isn’t quite what I expected from her. She’s not sneaky, lazy, moody nor egoistic, traits I thought a kitsune like her would have and traits that are ususally associated with kitsune. She’s sly though, sly as a fox.
“I was simply a weapon. A weapon did not question the intent of those who wielded it.”
↳ Tatsumi Kage, or as you would say in Japanese, Kage Tatsumi // Tatsumi is a shinobi, member of the infamous Shadow Clan and owner of Kamigoroshi, a special sword in which a demon called Hakaimono is caged. Only those who have been trained to be completely unemotional can fight using the sword since those who feel any emotions (e.g. anger, love, etc) will be possessed by the most malevolent of all demons. That explains why Tatsumi might seem like a cold-hearted person at first but he goes through such a great character development!! And, to be honest I just think that he’s such an innocent and an extremely likeable character.
At this point one shouldn’t forget that there’s also a FORMER SAMURAI WHO DOES NOT HAVE ANY MASTER NOR ANY HONOR ANYMORE (he really doesn’t care though) and is FLUENT IN SARCASM, a VERY PROUD NOBLE WITH A LOT OF FREE TIME, BEST CONNECTIONS and really COOL KATANAS, a LOYAL SHRINE MAIDEN with OFUDA (= a paper-like talisman that is used for protection) MAGIC that could become Yumeko’s best friend (my prediction) + an invisible dog-like creature SIDE KICK (KOMAINU??) that is a shrine guardian called Chu. I mean, that’s a super nice squad to hang out with!! And, their interactions are even better: There’s everything from resentment to teasing people and so on.
➼ The SLOW-BURNING ROMANCE. // Obviously, there’s some kind of romance in this ya-fantasy as well and what makes it different from a lot of other ya books is that it does not involve mediocre romance that is based on instalove. No, Yumeko and Tatsumi are not supposed to be friend but aren’t enemies neither. Their relationship is complicated in a way that makes following its development really interesting. And, I really don’t want to say more about it, you have to see (i.e. read) for yourself!
➼ The SETTINGS + world-building. // Want to visit a shrine or temple? A city full of lanterns, dances and music or one with scary yurei?? What about wandering through forests and spending the night there or joining a moonlight party at the emperor’s castle??? YOU HAVE ALL TAHT IN THIS BOOK!! I really loved reading about these places and traveling along with the characters through the country.
❃ What I did NOT LIKE about SotF and why this wasn’t a full 5 stars read for me;
➼ LADY SATOMI and that’s it. // I have already mentioned how I struggled a bit with getting into the book but that wasn’t really a problem later and the “ano” and “eto” phrases did become a bit repetitive at the end but all that wasn’t annoying. What annoyed me is the villain of the story, i.e. Lady Satomi (not really a spoiler). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against villains in fiction, in fact I believe that they can be the most interesting and complex characters. Lady Satomi, on the other hand, is none of those. It is way too obvious why she exists and what her purpose for this story is: being evil and nothing more but I think that’s the most boring thing one can make a villain do. There was NO SAD BACK STORY as to why she’s the way she is (maybe we’ll get that in the sequel??), NO FURTHER EXPLANATIONS, NO OTHER ACTIVITIES THAN HER BEING VICIOUS, NASTY AND DEVIOUS. Come on, that’s a bit lame. Now, here is the cliché part: She’s the emperor’s favorite concubine. So, she even belongs to the royals. I saw the potential of her while reading but unfortunately it wasn’t used the way I’ have liked it to be… That’s the only major complain I have but I think that villains are important characters and necessary for stories like this one so, that’s where the half star went.
“It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it. The mortal world is full of hatred, betrayal, sadness and death.”
All in all, this book is a hidden gem for everyone who is into Japanese culture, tradition, folklore etc. and I bet that a lot of anime and manga fans would like it as well which does not mean that you can’t enjoy it if you aren’t! It’s a nice ya-fantasy read, not as fast-paced as others I know but that’s fine because the story has its own pace. Shadow of the Fox is really underrated in my opinion and it does deserve more attention. I had not read anything by Julie Kagawa before although I know that she also wrote some other fantasy series but I can already tell that for me none of those will top this one. I’m glad that the release date of the sequel Soul of the Sword is not too far away and that the series is supposed to be a trilogy. I am ready for more traveling, mythology and especially dialogues! 🐉
“It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.”
✧ If this is a spoiler already… well, I don’t know but can we talk about how great this FIRST SENTENCE of the book is?! It makes you immediately want to find out everything about who Suki is, what is going on and what happend. Very well played indeed. It aroused my curiosity right away which meant GOTTA CONTINUE READING UNTIL I’VE SOLVED EVERY MYSTERY.
+ Would it be weird if I shipped Suki and Daisuke, the noble?? I know that they only had one encounter and that Suki is dead (if there is no reanimation possible) but…!
At this point I’m just chasing rainbows…
✧ Talking about Suki, I kinda like the way Lady Satomi was introduced in this very first chapter and how it was clear that she’s the villain of the story and A BLOOD WITCH. How nice is that?! But did she really have to summon a giant centipede?? EWWW.
There was really no character development for Lady Satomi and I’m really okay with her death but it felt not well integrated… like, what is the purpose of her death for the story? A new villain in Book 2? Or maybe she’s reanimated aka not really dead? Do we get more information about her in Book 2? Because, as I said before, I think that she was a rather flat character and if there isn’t something else coming my thesis is right.
✧ FAVORITE ARC/PLACE THEY VISITED: The creepy yurei ghost city!!!!!! 👻
✧ AND THE EPILOGUE, guys!! I think it’s funny how a lot of reveals take place there and not in the actual story. WHO IS THIS MASTER? And how could Suki “live again” and actually kill Lady Satomi?? Is she gone forever now?
✧ I also have a lot of questions about Yumeko and Tasumi: Is Tatsumi gonna make it? How do you get de-possessed from a demon?? (It was inevitable that this would happen but the most adorable thing about all this is that it was because of him thinking about Yumeko! AGH!) Obviously, Yumeko is going to play a bigger role in this “prophecy” Does that mean there will be a chosen one-trope???????
The moment Tatsumi found out that Yumeko is a half-yokai through Hakaimono; I wish I could have read anything about his expression! But unfortunately that wasn’t very clear. I mean it’s clear that he’ll feel betrayed but I wonder if he’s really going to hate Yumeko for not telling him….? Because on the other hand he DID at least tell her about Hakaimono.
“No one has ever shown you any kindness before, have they?”
I really don’t want this romance to end because they literally just became good friends! And, can we talk about how Tatsumi never realized or found out that Yumeko has the dragon scroll? Either Yumeko is very good at hiding (which would make sense because she’s a kitsune) or that’s just too easy!
Have you read Shadow of the Fox? If you did, what’s your opinion on it? Do you consider reading it?