Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: High Fantasy
Page Count: 409
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 is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it.”
I’ve been eagerly waiting to get back into another high fantasy. So when I saw several bloggers talk about Shadow of the Fox and also read the blurb for it, I bought myself a copy. Even though I loved the Japanese mythology, I couldn’t fall in love with it.
Every thousand years, an ancient scroll awakens a dragon who grants a wish of either great power or great destruction. Yumeko, a half-kitsune girl, is tasked with protecting a piece of that scroll when a demon slaughters her adoptive family. But many foes look to claim it, like Kage Tatsumi. But they make a pact built on hidden truths and lies, which may tear them apart.
How can I complain about that description? Julie delivers all the elements I’m looking for in a YA fantasy: a touch of romance, mythology, Japanese culture, dragons, and a great backstory. I’m not sure if the journey the characters take dulls the story or if I simply couldn’t connect with the storyline itself. What I was expecting was a well-executed Japanese-inspired fantasy, but what I got is anything but that. However, I love how Julie engrosses you in magical folklore. But I think that was one of the few things that kept me reading.
I wanted something more than formulaic writing. Too many tropes and over-used elements suck the life out of this book. By the end, I struggled with finishing it. One character who prevented me from DNFing it is Tatsumi. The demon slayer of the Shadow Clan must wipe his mind of all emotions, or the demon who possesses the sword of Kamigoroshi will take control of his body. He battles his own mind when he pairs himself with Yumeko. His growth is complex and compelling. I wanted to see more of his past and watch how he fights internally.
Unfortunately, the other main character, Yumeko, couldn’t keep my attention. I don’t mind when a character is naive. But even though the monks isolated her from the world because she’s half-kitsune, her character development is barely non-existent. She falls for the same tricks. In the first one hundred pages, I loved her. But she falls flat by the end.
Julie relies too heavily on the mythology, and she doesn’t see the flaws in her writing. If she focused more on her characters, then perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more. However, she has created a unique platform to build off a solid series though. If she fixes these issues, then her sequels may fare better.