4.5 star, YA

Review: Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

Series: Gumiho #2

New romance and dangers abound in this companion to the crowd-pleasing Wicked Fox.

As Vicious Spirits begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are picking up the pieces of their broken lives following the deaths of Miyoung’s mother, Yena, and Jihoon’s grandmother. With the support of their friend Somin, and their frenemy, Junu, they might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker and sicker by the day and her friends don’t know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let’s be honest, Junu isn’t known for his “generosity.” Meanwhile, the events at the end of Wicked Fox have upended the forces that govern life and death and there are supernatural entities lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to right their world.

Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

Luscious and rich in Korean folklore, this companion novel (really, more like a sequel) to the events in her first book, Wicked Fox, was more than pleasing to the eye and heart.

I will admit that I barely remember the events of book 1 as I read it way before it even came out as an ARC. And with this book picking up the pieces in the aftermath of events that occurred there, I will warn that this should not be read separately from book 1.

We follow two characters who were first introduced in Wicked Fox, the charming dokkaebi Junu and the sassy, quick-tongued Somin who instantly took a dislike to him.

I love getting the Junu’s backstory from the get go as it gives us knowledge about him as the omniscient reader that the rest of the gang do not have, which really explains a part of why his character is kind of dodgy and selfish. My heart hurt just seeing how the others in the group held a grudge against him (fine, he probably deserved some of that from mistakes he made), but it was like he could never prove himself. I was completely on Team Junu from that point on. I always did love the misunderstood, he’s-not-such-a-bad-guy kinda hero.

Somin, on the other hand, I thought I would like less. Overprotective towards all of her friends and unable to easily change her mind, she had a good heart but I wasn’t certain where the book was going in pairing the two of them.

Oh boy was I wrong there!

The love-hate relationship they had was full of angst from the beginning since they already had run-ins in the previous book that actually led to further tipping towards the hate side of the scale. But they say there is only so much of a distance from hate to love as you could tell the depth of emotion both invoked in one another was surprising. As the two were unwittingly thrown together to solve a devastating merging of the human world and supernatural, maybe it seems love wasn’t so far off after all.

The action was there for sure, with sprinklings of the Korean landscape and culture. Not as much as book 1 but it felt comfortable coming back to Seoul like this and seeing the world through a Korean author. Thank goodness for a glossary at the back to help remind me of terminology I had forgotten!

And if you did read Wicked Fox, there were plenty of POV chapters from Miyoung and Jihoon as they are just as entangled in this mess as Somin and Junu are.

I was pleasantly surprised overall by how fast I swallowed this one up. A romance with all the feels as hate became love and the conclusion to the issues Miyoung launched into the world when she fell in love with a human boy, I am satisfied with the life lessons these characters have earned. Though if I’m totally honest, I kind of wish there could be a companion to this companion? Like, perhaps a certain mysterious new reaper who appeared in this book who seemed to have some kind of a heart?

Overall Recommendations:

Vicious Spirits followed the events of Wicked Fox quite closely, dropping us back into this supernatural landscape of Seoul. A enemies-to-lovers trope running strongly through its pages, you can’t help but fight for Junu and Somin to find strength from one another as they face yet more supernatural consequences their friend Miyoung unleashed previously. The pacing kept my heart beating all the way until the very satisfactory end. With characters you may have already fallen in love with just as present in this book, this companion (sequel, who are we kidding?) novel is a must-read for lovers of folklore and of Kat Cho’s previous book.

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.