4 star, YA

Review: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox #3

Master storyteller Julie Kagawa concludes the enthralling journey into the heart of the fantastical Empire of Iwagoto in the third book of the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. As darkness rises and chaos reigns, a fierce kitsune and her shadowy protector will face down the greatest evil of all. A captivating fantasy for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has given up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers in order to save everyone she loves from imminent death. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must journey to the wild sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate last-chance effort to stop the Master of Demons from calling upon the Great Kami dragon and making the wish that will plunge the empire into destruction and darkness.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil—the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop a madman and separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that had trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this most unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed…until now.

The final conclusion to the Shadow of the Fox series, and boy was it a wild ride to its crazy finish. Andge and I both rate it about a 4 Drink Me Potions here. Full of rich Japanese lore (all the books had this), and the climactic finish to the whole journey, it certainly was a dramatic ending. This was the final culmination of all the characters we have met, and the final ending for all of them.

Night of the Dragon is the last book in the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. In this final part, Yumeko and her motley crew are on the last part of their journey to the summoning site. Of course, the evil Master of Demons, Genno, will already be waiting for them there, with blood magic fueling an entire army to prevent Yumeko from stopping him making his wish. Certain to sustain many losses in the journey, she nonetheless bravely ventures forth to prevent the world from falling into darkness under Genno’s rule.

This was quite a finish to this epic tale. I would say the biggest strength is the use of Japanese lore: the samurai and their code, the famous greater and lesser kami spirits, and even yokai (demons) from their lore as well all making an appearance. Creatures of all kinds felt like they were themselves being summoned from Japanese scrolls into this novel. I found that extremely enjoyable and it was awesome to have a closer look into these Japanese historical myths and stories. It goes beyond just the regular surface level concepts that everyone knows and the research really added an extra depth in the story to sink us in.

The characters were also complex and interesting. Memorable and lovable, I honestly cried a bit whenever things looked dire for them, not wanting to lose them on the journey. Or maybe it’s more because I’ve invested three books into them now and didn’t want to lose a character/friend. The relationships that developed were a little bit predictable, but at the same time still reasonable and executed well. The author uses a lot of POV switches in the book, and often uses outside POVs to cast light onto the other relationships, which I found was an interesting way of “observing” these growing relationships rather than telling us explicitly through the POV of the people in question.

As for the plot, overall it was pretty good. I definitely enjoyed… the first 75-80% of it. However, there was a slight part at the end that was too rushed for my liking, considering how big of a deal they made it out to me (the big reveal). Unfortunately I can’t give away much else without spoiling, but essentially the amount of time spent on that part was disproportionately small considering the whole build up leading up to it. A bit disappointing for me, and a pretty big deal. However, in terms of tying up loose ends, and not letting any hints from previous books going to waste, this book did a great job. Everything ended up being explained, even if some explanations may be a bit shorter than I would’ve liked, it was still nice to see everything come together.

The journey itself was pretty exciting, and it really did feel like a big epic adventure. As such, Andge and I actually both think that it may have been more impactful if all three novels were just combined into one big epic tale. Considering the second book had a bit of middle book syndrome, and this last one felt a bit fast in some points, I really wonder if it couldn’t have been combined to provide a better flow. For me, it just felt a bit like one grand adventure was chopped up into three, rather than three individual great stories were combined to become an epic trilogy.

Overall, I’d still recommend this story. If you enjoy Japanese lore, this story is rich in that. There are many, many characters involved in the whole story and how it is all tied together is actually pretty brilliant, so I think it is worth a read if you enjoyed any of the above things I mentioned. It is also a fairly fast-paced read, and that’s always a good thing for an adventure story. Hopefully you enjoy if you do decide to pick it up!

Overall Recommendations

Night of the Dragon is the finale of the Shadow of the Fox series, the last journey where Yumeko is on the last part of her quest to stop the Master of Demons from summoning the dragon and taking over the land of Iwagoto. This is the final wrap-up of the epic journey from start to finish, where the final secrets are revealed. Everything is tied together nicely and resolved, leaving no loose ends. Whether you like the way it is resolved or not may be a different story. Characters were lovable all the way until the very end, and the story was also rich in Japanese mythology and lore. I recommend this series as it was quite an enjoyable read!

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