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.

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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.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao

Series: Blood Heir Trilogy #2

Fans of Children of Blood and Bone will love the sequel to Blood Heir. The second book in an epic fantasy series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to liberate her empire from a dark reign.

Ana Mikhailov is the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia. She has no army, no title, and no allies, and now she must find a way to take back the throne or risk the brutal retribution of the empress. Morganya is determined to establish a new world order on the spilled blood of non-Affinites. Ana is certain that Morganya won’t stop until she kills them all.

Ana’s only chance at navigating the dangerous world of her homeland means partnering with Ramson Quicktongue again. But the cunning crime lord has schemes of his own. For Ana to find an army, they must cross the Whitewaves to the impenetrable stone forts of Bregon. Only, no one can be certain what they will find there.

A dark power has risen. Will revolution bring peace–or will it only paint the streets in more blood.

Sometimes, bravery was not loud, or grand, or brilliant as the blaze of a thousand fires. Sometimes it was quiet. Unremarkable. Unknown. The resilient wend of water through rocks, year after year.

That, my daughter, is when you can choose to be brave.

Red Tigress, the sequel to Blood Heir, definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome. While initially dealing with the crazy and somewhat tragic aftermath of book 1, our protagonists Ramson and Ana are both dealing with the 180 shift in power to Affinites, those with gifted abilities. However, now it seems this power change has gone too far with non-Affinites being hunted down and treated poorly for even looking at an Affinite wrong. Or if they had done nothing to save Affinites during the previous rule.

However, this book doesn’t focus super heavily on this. I kind of like that it’s setting up for something big – that being fighting Morganya and figuring out how to deal with the kingdom that’s long been divided into Affinites and non-Affinites – but not in a direct way yet. Morganya is up to something, planning something behind people’s backs that has yet to make sense. And hence, Ana and Ramson reunite to track down this mysterious plan before it can come to fruition.

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