Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa

I have been busily reading YA speculative fiction for the past few weeks, in my role as a 1st round Cybils Awards panelist in that category, so busy reading I haven't given much attention to reviewing...which I find annoying.  Happily the book I just finished, Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa  (Harlequin Teen, Oct. 2018), is one I enjoyed, and I have no trouble figuring out why I enjoyed it, so it is easy to blog about!  

I was doubtful, at first.  I liked the first point of view character, young Suki, and she dies almost immediately, and I was all, uh, what? But nevertheless I persisted.  And yay!  none of the other pov characters die (at least, not in this first book of the series).  Which is good, because one of them I liked very much indeed, and the other I am keenly interested in.

The character I liked very much is Yumeko, a half human, half kitsune (fox shapeshifter) girl raised by monks in an isolated temple.  Though her childhood was lonely, the monks were not unkind, not even when the kitsune half of her rose to the surface to play tricks.   It's a horrible shock for her, as indeed it would be for anyone, when her temple home is attacked by demons.  They kill all the monks, but not before the master of the monastery entrusts her with a fragment of a magical scroll (the sort of magical scroll fragment that, if reunited with its fellow fragments, would bring disaster to the world if it fell into the wrong hands), and tells her to run to a second temple.

So Yumeko flees into the night, not sure how to find this other temple, just as POV Character 2 arrives.  Tatsumi is a young man of the Shadow Clan, who was made into their weapon (serving his clan masters with almost no free will left) during the course of a hellish childhood.  He wields a demonic sword, and must constantly keep all emotion in check lest the demon get free.  Like the monk-slaughtering demons, he's looking for the scroll.  Instead he finds the destroyed monastery and the demons, who he kills, and Yumeko, who his sword would like to kill if he let it, which he doesn't (it's not a nice sword).  Yumeko tells him the scroll was already sent away, but that she must warn the monastery where it was sent.  And he decides she might be a useful tool in getting the scroll, so he agrees to travel with her and help her on her journey.  Help is needed, because an evil witch of great power (the one who sent the demons) wants them to fail...

So that's the set up.  The journey is the bulk of the story, with various adventures and new companions along the way, and it's good reading.  What makes it especially interesting is that Yumeko is trusting, naïve, and good-hearted, and her warmth causes chinks to develop in Tatsumi's control of his emotions...very, very slowly.  She slows their journey down to help people, for instance, which is a novel idea for him, and she tries not to hurt him when she cleans his wounds (wounds happen) which blows his mind.  No one ever tried not to hurt him before.    

Here's what I especially like about the way their relationship is built--Yumeko gets to stay a young teen in her perceptions; she's not swooning into insta love, and she gets to start growing out of her naiveite gradually. She's not an adult in young teen clothing.  And Tatsumi  does not have an aha moment of love, which would have been annoying and out of character, though it's clear to the reader that that is where we are headed....he basically only gets to the point of "I don't want to be told to kill her" but that's huge for him....So lots to look forward to in the next book on that side of things!

Likewise, not a lot of progress is made on the whole quest they are on.  So if you set a high value on  briskness in plot, with the things that happen all push the main plot along, you might become restive at times.  I myself am happy for things to meander a bit if I'm enjoying the characters, and I don't mind descriptions of meals....and there were bits that were actually funny. There's not a lot of sarcasm in YA fantasy (Sarah Rees Brennan is the only author I can think of for sarcasm, recommendations for others welcomed), and I did very much appreciate the sprinkles of it here!  It is one of the most entertaining YA fantasies I've read for a while; dark things happen, but I was probably grinning quite a bit during the non-dark parts.

What I did not enjoy was the ending, which is basically the first book stopping.  If I had the next book on hand I'd keep reading, probably straight through till I finished it...but that not being possible, I will wait with anticipation.  

1 comment:

  1. I like that the MC isn't an adult in teen clothing. That happens way too often in YA lit. Thanks for the heads up on this book.


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