Oh man. I’ve had this book in my TBR for a while now but it wasn’t until I was approved for the sequel on NetGalley that I finally decided to get my butt in gear. Lucky for me, The Shadow of the Fox was on Audible because I’m not sure how I would have been able to get a physical copy with all those fines on my library card…
And I’m actually glad it took me this long to read it. Like many of you know, I can be pretty impatient with sequels (although the sequel is only just releasing later this year so if that one ends up being Awesome I’m going to go into a post-series depression)
Oh, and this book got me to watch the Inuyasha movies again because there was such a huge parallel! So this post is basically a review with a ton of Inuyasha screenshots and gifs. If you read this book, do you think they fit?
Shadow of the Fox is the first book in this Japanese tale by Julie Kagawa. We start off the book being introduced to Yumeko, a half-demon Kitsune (fox) who lives a pretty isolated life at the Silent Winds temple with the monks. True to her nature, she’s a ball of mischief, but also completely honest and naive. One day, while she is out in the woods and getting some life advice from a fellow Kitsune, the Silent Winds temple is attacked by demons. It seems like fate that just the day before, Yumeko had learned about the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers and the legend of the great Kami Dragon, said to be summoned by the greedy in hopes of getting their One Wish granted.
Tasked with delivering one part of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to another temple in order to secure it from evil, Yumeko must leave her now-destroyed home, fight off the person behind the destruction of the Silent Winds temple, and (most importantly) hide her true identity and purpose from her new companion Kage Tatsumi
Kage Tatsumi is the wielder of the demon sword Hakaimono and a member of the Shadow Clan. After finding Yumeko running from the Silent Winds temple and claiming that the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers is no longer there, Tatsumi agrees to accompany her to the Capital in order to find more information as to where the legendary scroll is at. After all, he too was tasked to collect the scroll by his Master and Yumeko is his only lead.
As they travel to the Capital, the two meet a plethora of friends and foes, and slowly start to trust one another, which may end up being their undoing.
The book tells the story through alternating points of view. Our main characters seem to be Tatsumi and Yumeko, however, at certain points, we also get to see the story via Suki’s perspective. Suki is introduced as the new serving girl of our antagonist, Lady Satomi, and while she didn’t get much “screen time”, I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes a bigger comeback later in the series. I noticed right away that many of the events and especially characters, have a very specific purpose for being around
I read a few reviews on Goodreads and it seems some people weren’t particularly fond of Tatsumi’s POV but I actually really enjoyed it! Even though he’s supposed to be a character with little emotions, since he needs to keep Hakaimono at bay lest he loses control, Brian Nishii really brought some life into him! Actually, I wouldn’t have minded if Nishii had narrated the whole book. Even with our female characters, his voice acting was superb. I also felt he sounded very familiar but I haven’t watched any dubs in a long time so I’m not sure from where he sounded familiar…
Having three different narrators also gave me a shock at first. Each narrator goes through at least one chapter before they begin to alternate, which means that Yumeko and the others all can have up to three different voices!
Aside from narration, I also just really enjoyed the premise, the execution, and how easy it was to add Japanese without outright explaining what every word meant! I actually wondered at times if I knew what certain words meant only because I’ve been watching anime for so long but Julie Kagawa does a really good job at cluing us into what each word means. For example, the use of kitsune, yokai, oni, gaki, kamaitachi, and words of greeting, goodbye, and hesitance, were usually followed by descriptors or translations that didn’t interfere with the flow of the story!
In fact, this was probably some of my favorite parts of the book, just learning about the lore of all of the creatures discussed.
If there was anything I would have to “complain” about, it’s that the story moves along in a very slow pace and that’s probably why I decided to give this book a 4/5. I liked everything that happened and felt everyone balanced each other very well (Yumeko as naive, Tatsumi as emotionless, Okame as sarcastic and brutish, and Daisuke as the bishie noble
actually they’re all probably bishie material but rip no visuals) but there was an OOMPH that the story was missing.
While there were many battles (that were really well told btw), the sense of excitement and suspense didn’t really hit me until the last chapters. I was so not expecting what happened with that ending so I’m glad I have the second book in my possession!
Also, there was a moment where Okame said he’d find a job as a bouncer and I cringed because everything felt very feudal era and I don’t think bouncer fit the story. I feel like bouncer is a very modern word for a world that has samurai, nobles, priests, and where the characters use horses and walking as the modes of transportation
Like a lot of Japanese stories, this book also has a big focus on friendship and how the journey changes you. Plus, there are 5 “heroes”, which I know is common in Japanese media…I just don’t know the meaning behind it. I would have to take a guess at this being a balanced number since it coincides with the five elements and other Buddhist beliefs, but I’m not entirely sure. I also feel like an anime fan would quickly grow fond of this story while someone who isn’t used to Japanese stories may feel like this is an odd setup (but also familiar, it’s very YA)
I definitely recommend this book, especially the audiobook!
And if anyone is curious, most of the images in this post come from the Inuyasha movie Swords of an Honorable Ruler since demon sword immediately made me think of Sounga!