5 star, YA

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

shadow of the fox -julie kagawaOnce Every Thousand Years…

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has…and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.


5 Drink Me Potions


**Shadow of the Fox comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you to Indigo Books & Music and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Finally, another masterpiece by Julie Kagawa. I haven’t felt such admiration for her work since the first book of The Iron Fey series came out a decade ago.

A piece of art steeped in Japanese folklore and legends, Shadow of the Fox was a delicious, sometimes even creepy, romp into a Japanese-centric world of samurai, honour, and a refreshing heroine who doesn’t have the answers to everything right off the bat.

Initially, I will admit, the Japanese words and terms can get a little bit confusing, but eventually they become a part of your vocab like you naturally use them. Fans of Japanese animes and mangas may be a little more accustomed to how individuals refer to each other, or the words for demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings that are a part of Japanese legends. Our protagonist, Yumeko, is a kitsune. A type of fox demon. Regardless of the negative connotation that the word demon normally brings out, this girl was raised in a temple by monks. Yes. Monks. You would think that those wouldn’t go together, right?

If you thought she made for an unlikely heroine, meet our other protagonist. Kage Tatsumi, an infamous member of the Shadow Clan with a dark burden he carries in the form of a sword, is otherwise known as the demonslayer.

Half fox demon and a demonslayer. Unlikely allies. My book senses are already tingling.

But wait! That’s not it at all.

These individuals meet due to strange circumstances. A time is drawing near where the possibility of great evil may emerge. And the only one to stop it from destroying everything they know of this world? A half-kitsune fulfilling a vow she made. Yumeko embarks on an adventure she never asked for, bringing along Tatsumi as they search for a piece of a scroll that could NOT fall into the hands of evil.

For a book this length, there were surprisingly few names that we meet. Yet it works well for this kind of story. A good portion of the book was just the alternating POVs of Yumeko and Tatsumi as they venture towards their next destination in their quest. Other individuals come along, both good and bad, and their company may even grow as they continue. But at the heart of it, this novel really spends a good amount of time developing our 2 protagonists and the main supporting characters. At the end of the day, I felt like I knew this company of unlikely allies and friends. They may each come from different backgrounds, and different secrets or motives may abound between them, yet there is loyalty and might I say, even friendship, that ties them so strongly together.

Romance wasn’t an important part of the book, although those of you who enjoy some elements of it should still be pleased with the little moments between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I personally enjoyed the individual growth each displayed. Yumeko was a naive girl who never knew what the world outside the temple was like. From fighting demons (oni) and ghosts (yurei) and other awful evils intent on preventing them from fulfilling their mission, she learned more of what she could do as part kitsune but never let any of this evil change the caring and trusting heart that she had. Tatsumi is your mysterious, emotionless guy that is quite typical in YA writings. But he’s not as simple as that statement sounds. Throughout the events that unfold, there’s this anticipation building as we watch him balance this fine line of controlling the inner demon inside of him (quite literally).

The depth of world building was by far my favourite. Japanese folklore brought to life, Kagawa really described this land and the magical, mystical creatures that are just a part of Japanese culture. It’s not just your simple samurai (whoop-dee-doo) either. One may be tempted to make comparisons with Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series, but I personally think this book goes into it a lot more. The protagonists aren’t your honourable samurai warriors, but rather a ragtag group of people who are normally on the outskirts of this kind of Japanese society. Kitsune, shinobi, ronin.

While the plot was a mere adventure towards the first stop in fulfilling the mission and completing the Dragon scroll everyone is searching for, it sets the foundation for a lot more excitement. The climax of the story answered a few things, although many more questions were opened up. I wouldn’t say it was a cliffhanger but there are definitely teasers hooking me in for more of what’s to come in book 2.

Shadow of the Fox is the book I’ve been waiting for from Julie Kagawa since I read her debut novel. This is the piece of work that I feel describes Julie maybe even more than The Iron Fey books did. And I cannot wait for whatever is to come from what was set in motion here.

Overall Recommendation:
Shadow of the Fox is a remarkable adventure through Japanese legends of spirits, gods, demons and other supernatural entities. Julie Kagawa has drawn us into this Japanese-centric world with unique characters on a mission for pieces of a scroll that hold the key to great wonders or evil. Following unlikely allies Yumeko and Tatsumi on their quest, secrets abound, dangers unfold and more questions open up about who to trust in this world of samurai and oni. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a book that piques a sense of adventure and amazing world building.

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3 star, YA

Review: The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

Series: Carve the Mark #2

the fates divide -veronica rothFate brought them together. Now it will divide them.

The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable.

Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.

As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.

With the addition of two powerful new voices, Veronica Roth’s sequel to Carve the Mark is a chorus of hope, humor, faith, and resilience.


3 Drink Me Potions


Fate versus choice. Which is greater than the other? Or is there a better question to be asked? Can our choices determine our fate or no matter what we choose, we may always hurtle towards our predestined path?

These are the questions that plague our protagonists as we find them right where we left off in book 1. Cyra and Akos may have momentarily “won” over their numerous adversaries but their troubles are far from over. Including their individual fates that still hang over their heads.

Brimming with questions about the path they each have to walk while wishing they could choose to be free of the destiny they were born with, the battle between their peoples continue, dragging in the Assembly that governs all these planets within the current that protects these lands. Additional POVs from the other Kereseth children were very insightful, especially from Akos’ oracle brother Eijeh who wasn’t really all quite there in the mind.

Equally balanced with romance and action, The Fates Divide was a good conclusion to the duology. At times, it did feel slow. The switching POVs didn’t always add to the story, and the world building wasn’t very strong in this sequel. It seemed after introducing us to how this world worked, including its current and the currentgifts some individuals possessed, not a whole lot was expanded about this world here. Roth did a good job in reminding us what had happened in book 1 and how everything worked in this world, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve read it, but I was a bit disappointed in only learning more about the planet Olga in this book since there’s so much more out there. With duologies picking up more in popularity, I suppose this just wasn’t enough space for further characterization of this society on top of the story.

What I will say this novel had going for it was a certain unexpected twist or two I hadn’t seen coming. And of course, back to the Fates . Always that question on how Cyra and Akos would each fulfill their destinies. I think just guessing at how it could all turn out to be okay really kept the underlying tone of the novel more urgent while events really took its time to unfold.

As endings go, this one was satisfactory. I loved the POV it was written in and that not everything was made “better” for our protagonists completely. Things aren’t 100% resolved, especially concerning the state of the overall society’s changing attitudes, but I like to think that it leaves room for more stories to be possibly born from here, set in this world. Meanwhile, we get to leave our protagonists with future possibilities that are both hopeful and content.

Overall Recommendation:
The Fates Divide concludes Veronica Roth’s interesting duology set in a world filled with currents and destinies that define the core of our protagonists. While the pacing was slow at times and there was a disappointing lack of further world building, the central theme of our destinies versus the choices we make that define our fates eclipsed everything else. Yes, there was action, romance, and the ties of family they couldn’t choose, but the question of fulfilling their fates was ultimately hanging overhead the whole time. Excellently weaved into this fantasy story, this showcases Roth’s ability to put depth in even a YA novel that could’ve remained superficial. A worthy ending that opens up the possibilities of more in this world (or so I hope).

3 star, YA

Review: Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Series: Rime Chronicles #1

onyx & ivory -mindee arnettThey call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.


3 Drink Me Potions


A copy was provided by Edelweiss and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review

I will admit, coming into this fantasy book, I thought it wouldn’t be able to surprise me much. I mean, a competition between brothers for the crown. A mysterious death of the previous king. Monstrous creatures coming out at night. A protagonist with secret magical abilities that may come in handy more than she could know. And enemies lurking in the shadows with ulterior motives. All sounds a little familiar, right?

How about the part of wild magic versus the controlled form of magic that was legal to use? Or the fact that the romance centred on an old flame who broke her heart? And only these two could right the wrongs that were occurring in their lands?

Yet, something about Onyx and Ivory didn’t let me put it down and give up completely. While the major concepts are things that very well are found in other books, I really enjoyed a couple of things that still felt unique.

The concept of uror and the competition the princes had to face went beyond a simple duel of who was a better fit to be king. It boiled down to the heart of each boy and what mattered to them the most, and getting to see this side of Corwin won me over a lot more than just the generic princely character in such stories.

Kate was also an intriguing protagonist in some ways. Yes, she held forbidden wild magic in her blood but it wasn’t completely evident if there was any applicable use of her abilities in the beginning. She wasn’t the most memorable girl (the whole powerful girl who can save the day thing, you know?) but I liked her courage to stand for what was important to her, including the people she loved.

As far as fantasies go, the pacing was all right and the story wasn’t completely predictable in every way, but it may not stand out very well in the sea of amazing YA fantasies out there already.

Overall Recommendation:
Onyx and Ivory features a plot that may not be 100% original yet it still delivers a nice story of courage, heart and fighting for what’s right. In a world where wild magic is forbidden, Kate has a lot going against her. Reunited with the boy who broke her heart, a conspiracy within the kingdom must be brought to light as old mysteries resurface. Although I liked this novel well enough, it just missed a certain element to propel it into the spotlight that’s been so overcrowded by a lot greater novels in the YA world.