Last spring I went on a book buying binge and picked up a few that looked really interesting. Shadow of the Fox was one of those books. Sadly, it has been sitting on the shelf since, so I was super excited to finally dive in to it. Seriously. Just look at that cover! I think I would’ve grabbed it even without reading the synopsis. ❤ But lucky for me, the story is even better than the dust jacket artwork.
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.
If you’re from the Western hemisphere like me, you might not know much about Japanese culture and especially feudal Japan. My experience (which I now feel is woefully depressing) was limited to their food, love of their arts, and a desire to visit the country. So Google and Alexa became my two favorite friends when it came to pronouncing some of the words because I’m THAT reader. Also, Ms. Kagawa was kind enough to put a glossary in the back for people like me. Thank you!
Anyway, let’s get into the review! The blurb on the cover goes over most of it but here’s what I’d like to add… This is a unique story! Set in the fictional world of Iwagoto, it had elements that felt like an old school saga archetype. We’re introduced to Yumeko, our heroine, and she’s given a quest – to take a piece of the sacred Dragon Scroll from her temple to another. Along the way, she meets and collects friends that join her on her journey. She also has to endure various trials along the way that help her gain confidence and practice using her kitsune gifts. It all ends in an epic battle with the Big Bad. Or at least the first of three Big Bads since this is slated to be a trilogy.
Like I said, Yumeko is our leading lady in this story. She is a half kitsune, half human teenage girl. Kitsune are Fox Yokai (a creature with supernatural powers) and are known as tricksters and pranksters. They specialize in illusions and mostly despised by the human populace. However, Yumeko was dropped off at the Silent Winds temple as a baby and raised by the monks. She was taught to suppress her kitsune ways and let her human side prevail. Sheltered as she was, I found her naive fascination with the outside world endearing. I have to say, Julie Kagawa expertly walked that fine line between being truly believable and cute versus annoyingly stupid and aggravating with Yumeko. She’s spunky, smart, and tenacious despite her fear.
Yumeko’s main counterpart and first companion to join her quest is Kage Tatsumi. Known as the Demonslayer, he was sent by his Daimyo (or clan lord) to collect the scroll from the Silent Winds temple at all costs. Tatsumi is interesting because he’s been set apart from the rest of his Shadow Clan brethren to be the bearer of Kamigoroshi – a sword with the First Oni, or demon lord, trapped inside. He’s been trained, sometimes cruelly, to block out all emotion lest the demon leave the sword and possess Tatsumi. Used and treated as a weapon instead of a person, he’s hunted the Shadow Clan’s supernatural enemies for years. On his way to the temple, he runs into Yumeko as she’s running from the demons that destroyed her home.
Yumeko and Tatsumi strike up an uneasy alliance. She knows he’s after the very scroll she keeps hidden on her person but she needs someone that knows the land and can protect her on her journey to the Steel Feather temple. Tatsumi, wanting only to fulfill his mission, sees her as a means to an end and plans to take the scroll (with force if needed) as soon as they reach the new temple. Together, they set out across the empire, encounter various dangerous, and others trying to take the scroll for themselves. Fighting side by side, they soon collect a merry band of misfits: a Ronin (or disgraced Samurai), an Imperial Lord eager to test his skills against ever stronger opponents, a stern Shrine Maiden also bent on protecting the scroll, and her Komainu (or shrine guardian). But through it all, it still felt to me like it was Yumeko and Tatsumi’s quest.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the budding connection between our two leading characters. Despite Tatsumi’s best efforts, he comes to develop a soft spot for Yumeko. Second guessing his duty to his Clan, he starts to worry that they’ll ask him to kill her once he has the scroll. She’s different than anything he’s ever known, offering kindness instead of cruelty, and she’s willing to put herself in danger for him – a cursed weapon best left alone. For her part, Yumeko comes to rely on his strong and steady presence as well as his knowledge of the world. No matter their other companions, she turns to him in all things, constantly consulting him and checking to see if he’s okay. The growing affection is believable and not forced or insta-love which I appreciate.
My only complaints, if you could call them that, were these… There was some repetition when it came to Yumeko’s upbringing. I think it was mentioned a dozen times or more and after a while, I found that irritating. Also, it took a few chapters to realize that the viewpoint kept changing. With no label as a heads up, I felt like I was stumbling to get my bearings the first couple of sentences of each chapter. So keep that in mind when you check out Shadow of the Fox.
In the end, I’m giving this 4 stars on my Goodreads page (losing 1 star for the above mentioned reasons). So give it a read and let me know what you think! Or, if you’ve already read it, still let me know what you think!! 🙂