Review: Shadow of The Fox - Julie Kagawa

Shadow of The Fox by Julie Kagawa
Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Fantasy Fiction
Published October 2nd 2018 by Harlequin Teen

Source: ARC sent by Publisher
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.
To be completely honest, at it's core, Shadow of the Fox doesn't really offer anything new to the YA fantasy game... A naive young girl with interesting powers is tasked with protecting and delivering an important and highly sought after artifact. She is accompanied by a stoic handsome young warrior/assassin who is sworn to protect her but actually wants said artifact for himself. Along the way they are joined by various secondary characters. However, add in the Japanese flavour and the personalities of the characters alongside the subtle nuances Kagawa manages to convey and I enjoyed this one.

Something about Kagawa's writing style has always drawn me in and this was no exception: what could have been a very run-of-the-mill YA novel has been elevated with complex characters, meaningful interactions and a fast and action filled plot.

The beginning is a little slow, filled with intricate setups and introductions and multiple POVs, but once I got into it a bit more it became a faster read, although I have to admit that I did feel like it could have been edited to reduce that feeling of 'filler material'.

Yumeko is a half kitsune (fox yokai) half human who has lived her entire life at the Silent Winds temple under the care and instruction of the monks there. I loved her sweetness and the innocent mischievousness that was evident in her nature.

Tatsumi is a trained assassin, the Kage Demonslayer and he wields a sword with a demon trapped within. Only by suppressing his emotions and falling back on his extremely harsh training can he do this as safely as possible without letting the demon within take over his soul. I was actually quite impressed with his lack of sympathy and compassion for those he was tasked to kill - a rare YA breed. And as the background of his training and the necessity of his closed-off approach to life came to light I enjoyed him more and more.

The dynamics between the main characters and secondary characters are well executed and there's humour, angst and action in all the right places. The ending in particular was quite explosive and also cliff-hangery so take that as a warning for those who hate being left hanging!

It's mostly a quest-like journey with various episodic sort of instances happening throughout the narrative, but the overall plot arc ties this all together nicely and it's a fun romp through a Japanese inspired fantasy world.

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