Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1)
By Julie Kagawa
5 million/5 stars
ARC provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review
Quotes may change by final copy
*Review by Tiffany*
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.
I have a quick question: Is every Julie Kagawa book this good? Because this is my first one and O.M.F.G. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME?! I need to immediately consume every single word she has ever written.
Shadow of the Fox is, hands-down, one of the best YA fantasy books I have read in a VERY long time. There is no way I will ever be able to do justice to this book with mere words. What I can do is provide you with this visual, which most accurately represents how much I want to scream in everyone’s face about this masterpiece:
Spare me a brief moment for a personal tale: In the summer of 2000, the year I before graduated high school, I lived in Higashimurayama, Japan for a few months. If you’ve never been, well, try to get there. If you have been, you know that Japan is a country jam-packed with history, shrines, scenery like nothing you will find anywhere else in the world and so much mythology and folklore you could spend a lifetime learning it all. I didn’t learn nearly as much as I would have liked when I lived there for that short summer, but I did learn a little about kitsune, the foxes I kept seeing at almost every Shinto shrine, in all the anime and even on food packaging. You can’t visit Japan without realizing the fox is ingrained in the culture.
Let me take a very poor, vague, uneducated shot at explaining kitsune from my fuzzy memories (with a little help from wikipedia). The fox is a messenger for a god of prosperity. The kitsune is simultaneously evil and sacred. They can transform into human form, usually to cause mischief, but will also marry and live happily ever after with humans. They are the equivalent of the Western world saying, “The devil made me do it,” but instead of devil, the fox. Make sense? (I hope you said “yes” here.)
With all that said, let me tell you a little about one of our main characters in Shadow of the Fox, Yumeko, a half-human, half-kitsune who was raised by monks in a secluded temple. Yumeko has never truly understood or tested the full power of her kitsune nature and then, one day, her temple is attacked and she is sent on a mission and must leave the only home she has ever known. She is innocent, naive and has never been given the opportunity to discover her true self. Yumeko starts this adventure on wobbly legs. She must get from point A to point B while facing encounters she has no life-experience to handle. Constantly hiding her kitsune nature through illusion, Yumeko is both the most genuine and most deceptive character in this book.
“I’d spoken of demons and yokai and the things that wanted me dead, but in truth, the greatest danger to Yumeko was standing right beside her.”
This story really starts when Yumeko meets our other protagonist (and POV), Tatsumi. An elusive, broody (and probably hot) demon slayer from the Shadow Clan who wields a sword named Kamigoroshi, or God Slayer. This sword, which is tied to Tatsumi’s soul, is said to hold the spirit of one of the most powerful demons of all time. Boy has a DEMON linked to his SOUL that feeds on his emotions. No, thank you. This gives us a character who purposely avoids all emotion and human interaction, lest he be at greater risk of letting the demon sneak in and take over. This cold, blank slayer is on a mission of his own, sent by the leader of the Shadow Clan herself, to retrieve the sacred Scroll of a Thousand Prayers.
These two characters being put together sends us on an epic journey. EPIC. JOURNEY. I said earlier no words would do this justice. But look and listen, Shadow of the Fox is ready for the big screen. Every single scene, every side-character, every internal THOUGHT these characters have, is fleshed out perfectly and adds to this story. The Japanese aesthetic and troublesome world are seared into my eyes. Julie Kagawa did not waste a single sentence in this book. I do not exaggerate when I use all caps for those two words. I was lost and in love with every page.
“One step at a time, little fox…The spider does not spin its web in a heartbeat, nor does the albatross fly across oceans with a few flaps of its wings. Many would consider what they do impossible, and yet, they still complete their tasks without fail, because they simply…start.”
The villains in this book, by the way, are scary. There are ghosts who try to eat you because they were greedy in life. There are centipedes big enough to destroy bridges. There is an evil blood mage who, frankly, gives me the willies because she is written SO well I can see her stupid, evil, beautiful face in my head. Not to mention the untold numbers of demons from Jigoku, which I assume can only be hell. They were all fully-formed and perfectly evil/disgusting/manipulative/amazing.
So let’s see: Two spectacular protagonists with perfectly written character arcs. Check. Detailed, thoughtful world-building. Check. Interesting and beautiful Japanese lore. Check. Epic journey full of feudal class issues, magic, demons, ghosts, royalty, and blood mages. CHECK.
From the first page to the last, Shadow of the Fox was my Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello,” read of 2018. Kagawa starts this story with the line, “It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.” I was wholly sucked in from the start and Kagawa never let me leave. There are no breaks here. The story just keeps getting better.
If it isn’t clear, I can’t recommend this book enough. ESPECIALLY if you love Japanese culture and folktales, journeys and flawless storytelling. Pre-order it. Request it at your library. Read it. This is what an amazing YA fantasy can look like.
Shadow of the Fox will be released October 2nd, 2018. The second book in this series is set to come out…someday. There is no release date, despite my yelling at the heavens that “I need it Right Now!”