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Half kitsune Yumeko resides in the Silent Winds Temple, where she is taught to hide her yokai nature. But Yumeko still casts the occasional illusion to cause mischief and bend the rules. Little does she know her yokai nature will be the very thing that may save her life. When the temple is attacked, and all within it but her are slain, she is asked to perform one final duty for the temple. Carry a piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to the Steel Feather Temple. And do not let it fall into the hands of those who would use it, for they would cast the world into darkness once more.
Yumeko is a clever and manipulative character. Her use of assumptions and miscommunication is done so artfully and her fox nature is charming. Though she has nothing but good intentions, lies continue to build throughout the story. Readers are left wondering just when everything is going to tip over and expose Yumeko’s truths. Yumeko is also such a contrast to the second main character Kage. Where Kage is cold and mission focused, Yumeko is sincere and curious about everything she encounters.
Kage’s character is one fraught with complications and a dark past. Taught to withstand pain and feel no emotion, Kage is the exact opposite of Yumeko. He does not understand the concept of kindness, and whenever Yumeko uses it to better their situation he is surprised it even works. The shadow clan has honed him into nothing more than a weapon. And knowing he seeks the very scroll piece Yumeko keeps hidden on her person, ups the tension anytime he comes close to discovering it.
The Japanese mythology brought to life through Shadow of the Fox was fascinating. The world of demons, magic, lore, and samurai was enchanting. The use of the Japanese language within the context of dialogue was wonderful. Listening to the audiobook made it all the more enjoyable as I can guarantee I would not have pronounced the words correctly, even though phonetically I recognized a few. And the audiobook narrators did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life.
I did find the use of honor and explaining its importance overused. While I understand Yumeko is new to the outside world, and the significance, or lack thereof, for certain castes to bind themselves by honor, she’s clever. It only needs to be explained in detail once. It also seemed to be the caveat to plot points, and a surefire way of making characters move in directions the author wanted them to. I needed a bit more variety.
Shadow of the Fox has a wonderful cast of characters to follow. The blend of personalities and moral codes brought together makes for an interesting story. Julie Kawaga built a world of Japanese mythology that explored the darker side of magic and demons, while still maintaining a young adult fantasy tone. I am curious to see where the story goes, as much is left to accomplish at the end of book one and I will for sure be reading book two.
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