Thanks to the publisher, HQ, for sending me a copy of this book and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Check out the graphic at the bottom for a list of all the participating blogs in this tour!
I haven’t read any Julie Kagawa before, so this book was an introduction to something brand new for me. Oozing with Japanese mythology and sweetness, I really enjoyed the first in this trilogy, and am now very impatient for the second.
A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.
This was my first book by Julie Kagawa, so I didn’t know what to expect, but judging by the absolutely gorgeous cover, I was expecting something Japanese-inspired, with evocative writing, and lots of fighting. And boy, was I not disappointed. Shadow of the Fox is set in a Japanese-style Empire, with seven different Houses each holding their own lands. Yumeko is a half-kitsune, and a peasant girl tasked with a huge responsibility. She’s fun and sweet and innocent – probably because she was raised in a temple – and there are multiple very entertaining instances of her not understanding sarcasm, or just being entire naive which are very endearing.
Teaming up with Kage Tatsumi, shinobi, demon-slayer, he of no emotions, she begins a journey to the capital of the Empire, and picks up a host of friends along the way. If there’s any criticism I can make of Yumeko, it’s that she seems to be too sweet. I love how innocent or naive she is, how trusting, and how wondrous the outside world is to her, but I really don’t get why everyone she meets falls over themselves to help her. Hiding her outcast status as a half-fox, and her magical powers (as well as her furry ears and tail), it’s somewhat confusing that she seems to charm and entrance every person (or spirit, kami, or whatever) that she meets. It’s almost unbelievable. But I’ll actually forgive it, because she’s very enjoyable to have as a narrator, and I really did enjoy following her story.
The other part of the duo, Kage Tatsumi, wielder of a cursed sword, is our other narrator, alternating chapters with Yumeko. He’s your standard dark, brooding, emotionless man, with a tragic backstory and a magical sword to boot. He’s hiding something – a lot of things, actually, and he’s oh-so-sexy. Actually, although I liked Tatsumi, I did roll my eyes at him a lot as well. At least in his circumstances, there is a solid reason why he’s never felt gentleness or human kindness before, nor has he really felt anything. He’s isolated, mechanical, and utterly dedicated to his task. So why is it Yumeko who awakens his feelings? I’m not sure. But it certainly is interesting to watch the relationship between the two of them grow and change, and I am really interested to see where Tatsumi’s story will go in the next book in the series.
If this review sounds critical, it absolutely doesn’t mean to be. I really, really enjoyed this book. It is beautifully written, with great world-building, and really subtle indications of how the characters develop, especially in relation to each other. The movement from Yumeko-san to Yumeko-chan was a particularly sweet development for me, and never specifically pointed out, which made it all the nicer.
In conclusion, I am furious with Julie Kagawa. And that is only because she wrote a book that I enjoyed so much, that I am now enraged to have to wait for the sequel. Months, I’m going to have to wait! Months! Can you believe it? I don’t know how I’ll cope. I’ll have to find some of Kagawa’s back catalogue and read them instead.