Title: Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
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.
There were a few things Shadow of the Fox did well. Unfortunately, there was much more that it failed to do.
Julie Kagawa, best known for her Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, and Talon series, used her Japanese heritage as inspiration for this new trilogy. Shadow of the Fox started off slow, likely in an attempt to not to overwhelm the reader with Japanese words or mythology. The world carved out in Iwagoto is slowly introduced for the majority of the book.
Within the first few chapters, we learn a lot of critical information about our main characters. Tatsumi is a shinobi (ninja) from the Shadow Clan. Yumeko is a half-kitsune (fox) who was raised in a temple by monks, having been abandoned when she was younger. They meet when Yumeko’s temple is burned down to the ground by forces also in search of the Dragon Scroll– a secret treasure that Yumeko’s temple has guarded for decades– and which Tatsumi was also after. Here is where the story really begins– sort of.
Shadow of the Fox is a hero’s journey novel. Now, I love a good journey novel. (I would argue that Howls’ Moving Castle is one, in its own way.) However, the majority of Shadow of the Fox focused on side adventures that usually didn’t add anything to the main plot. The focus of them seemed more so to foster the tentative alliance between Yumeko and Tatsumi. I wouldn’t have minded if Yumeko or Tatsumi were more interesting.
Yumeko, understandably, is very trusting. She’s been sheltered her whole life. Now that all she knows is gone, she only wants to fulfill the mission her temple gave her. I’ll give her credit where it’s due. She lies through her teeth to Tatsumi when needed. Yet she’s surprisingly naive in trusting ronin like Okame when given no reason. For a women with no knowledge of the world she now traverses, she shows no self-preservation.
Tatsumi is depicted as this stoic weapon of the Shadow Clan. With how much time Tatsumi spends reminding himself of his need for a lack of emotional expression and attachment, it is hard to not feel like he has no other personality. Not to mention, he failed miserably if all it took for him to feel was Yumeko. Yes, she was kind. Yes, she is likely pretty. But is she really worth tossing aside all he has worked for?
I really wanted to enjoy this book. I’m hoping that my impatience at reading a few other books is what reduced my enjoyment. I’ll give it another read closer to the sequel before deciding if I want to continue with the series.
Despite my critiques, I want to say that I loved that Shadow of the Fox provides knowledge of Japanese mythology and culture to readers who may not have otherwise picked it up. Ever since I started reading YA about nine years ago, I’ve longed to see more diversity in the types of mythology that was explored– even though I adore Greek and Roman myths. It means a lot to me to see Shadow of the Fox contribute to that, even if I didn’t personally enjoy it.