3.5 star, YA

Review: Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox #2

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

Part two of the trilogy of Yumeko’s adventure with the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers is yet another exciting journey to the undoubtedly epic showdown that will happen in the last book. Although perhaps that makes it fall a bit victim to middle book syndrome, which I’ll discuss below. Andge and I both agree that it is probably only about a 3.5 Drink Me Potions level; this book wouldn’t be very exciting at all as a standalone, in my opinion.

Soul of the Sword, follows young half-kitsune, Yumeko, as she and her motley crew try to make their way to Steel Feather temple to protect the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers from the evil clutches of anyone hoping to use their one wish to change the fate of the land. As the title might suggest, the story also revolves heavily around the struggle between Tatsumi the Kage shinobi and Hakaimono the demon general who’s soul is bound to Tatsumi’s sword. Now that Hakaimono is released from his sword prison (though still bound), what cunning plans does he have to maintain his former glory?

Although the story is slightly predictable in terms of where it was going to end and what was going to approximately transpire, I still found myself quite excited as I went along the journey from all the different POVs. There is still good suspense – the destination might be clear, but the journey still held a lot of surprises. The characters are wonderfully lovable and it is easy to get invested quickly. I feel like I raced through the chapters quite quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Middle book syndrome. Although I don’t read many many YA series, I know this can be a common complaint about sequels. In fact, I discussed this a little bit during one of the Let’s Talk Bookish Fridays back in May. Basically this book seems to mainly serve the purpose of bridging our exciting beginning in book one to a (hopefully) climactic finish in book three, but not much else. I don’t feel like this book would be much of a book as a standalone.

I did think that the characters and their developing relationships were pretty interesting, and provided extra value to the story. The fight scenes were also quite good, and I enjoyed that fantastical element as well. The world building overall continues to be great, and I really do feel sucked into the land of Iwagoto. There seems to be a few final secrets about the characters that are about to be revealed (some revealed in this book), and although it is slightly predictable, I’m still excited to see how it will play out.

Overall I wasn’t super impressed by this book, but as part of the series, it was still enjoyable and I still read through it very quickly. I am excited to read the conclusion to this whole story, as I think that will largely determine how I feel more about this second book as well (e.g. whether it was worth it or not). I’m not sure whether I like series like this or not, where one large journey is stretched out over multiple books, because of the ease of falling into middle book syndrome. That being said, I have still been enjoying it so far, and I’d still recommend it if you liked the first book. If you missed Andge’s review on it, I have linked it here!

Overall Recommendations

Soul of the Sword is the second part of the Shadow of the Fox series. Yumeko continues to try and make her way to Steel Feather temple to turn over her part of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to the guardians there. As the title might suggest, the story also revolves Hakaimono (the soul in the sword) and how he plays into the whole journey. Full of interesting characters and their developing relationships as they embark on the most dangerous journey with the highest of stakes, this is the second part of the exciting adventure to stop the Great Dragon from being summoned again. Although this book suffers a little bit from being mainly a bridge from book one to book three, I can still say that I enjoyed the experience, and would recommend it to you too, especially if you enjoyed book one.

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