Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of fantasy books, especially those based on Japanese mythology like the Shadow of the Fox series. When I heard Julie Kagawa was coming out with a new young adult fantasy trilogy inspired by Japanese folklore, I was incredibly excited to dive in. Now that I’ve finished all three books – Shadow of the Fox, Soul of the Sword, and Night of the Dragon – here are my expanded thoughts on this action-packed and magical journey.
|Shadow of the Fox
|January 1, 2022
|Number of Books
Where to Purchase
Shadow of the Fox
The first book introduces us to Yumeko, a shapeshifting fox girl who has trained at a shrine all her life but must now go on the run to keep an ancient scroll safe. Along the way she runs into mysterious samurai Kage Tatsumi, and they form an unlikely partnership to find the remaining pieces of the legendary Scroll of a Thousand Prayers before it falls into evil hands.
I loved meeting Yumeko and learning more about the legendary Kitsune as the book went on. She’s an independent heroine who is also vulnerable at times when faced with the immensity of her task. Her developing relationship with the stoic Tatsumi was also fun to follow. I enjoyed the slow burn of their banter and camaraderie turning into something more. The story wanders through various adventures in feudal Japan, from battles with demonic Yokai to entertaining local warlords. The vivid scenery and mythology makes it feel like you’re there.
My main critique is that the plot could be confusing at times as they dash from one adventure to the next before explaining what’s going on. But the fast pacing also makes it a quick, engaging read. I sped through to see what would happen next! The cliffhanger ending definitely left me eager to keep following Yumeko and Tatsumi’s journey in the next installment.
Soul of the Sword
In the second installment, Yumeko and Tatsumi seek out the legendary swordmaker Muramasa Sengo for help destroying the cursed Oni Lord. This swordmaker has a deadly secret though, and things grow complicated as Yumeko’s shapeshifting abilities are blocked by unknown forces.
I enjoyed learning more about Muramasa and the demon-forged blades he creates. The other characters they meet, like Okame the ronin, also added humor and camaraderie to the story. However, Yumeko spends much of this book without her powers, which was a bit frustrating. I wanted to see her take on more action in her Kitsune form! Her blossoming romance with Tatsumi also hits some roadblocks that added interesting romantic tension.
The book expands the world by introducing new clans like the Tiger Clan and mysterious monks with magical abilities. The group travels to new parts of the empire on their quest. The descriptions of the scenery and culture are always vivid. But at times I did want more time spent on character development for the side characters. There are intriguing twists revealed about the Fox Clan that make Yumeko question her past. Overall, it expanded the lore while leaving things on a major cliffhanger that had me jumping straight into the next one.
Night of the Dragon
The third book brings the trilogy to an epic conclusion as Yumeko races to stop the Dragon of Chaos from bringing destruction to the empire. Loyalties are questioned and secrets come to light as she struggles to control her own Fox magic.
I was on the edge of my seat as betrayals and battle threw everything into question. The lore and world-building also expands as we get more nuance with the different clans and motivations at play. Yumeko has to dig deep to find the strength and courage within herself to stand up to the Dragon and those trying to control her destiny. The romance between her and Tatsumi culminates in a very satisfying way as they work together for the future of their country.
There are some heartwrenching losses and sacrifices along the way that added emotional depth. I wished some side characters got a bit more resolution, but the plot kept things moving briskly. The final confrontation with the Dragon felt a little abrupt, but the epilogue tied up the character journeys nicely. Overall Night of the Dragon was a pulse-pounding conclusion that had me rapidly flipping pages to see what would happen.
In the end I really enjoyed my trek across medieval Japan with Yumeko, Tatsumi, and the others in the Shadow of the Fox series. Julie Kagawa creates an immersive world inspired by Japanese mythology and folklore. I think her characters grew in compelling ways over the course of the journey as they overcame challenges and learned to trust each other. The romance between Yumeko and Tatsumi was one of my favorite parts.
Are there moments where the fantastical plot gets away from itself and can be confusing? Sure. But the rich world-building and fun characters kept me hooked throughout all the supernatural action. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for an imaginative young adult fantasy inspired by the legends of Japan’s past. It’s a quick and magical read that left me wanting to explore more of this universe. Thanks for the adventure, Julie Kagawa! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.