I have always been a fan of mythology. Mythological tales of gods and demons, of magical swords and artifacts, these are all wonderful parts of history that peek my interest. When I read the book blurb for Shadow of The Fox, I was instantly hooked. I’m happy to say it was a fun and mythical adventure.
It has been a very long time since I’ve read a book where all of the characters were so endearing I found myself caring for all of them. The story is told through the perspectives of the half-kitsune Yumeko and the Kage Demonslayer Tatsumi and their dynamic is nothing but wonderful. The sweet kind innocence of Yumeko is contrasted by the cold apathy of Tatsumi in a way that makes me smile as I read it. The character interaction between the two is incredibly refreshing as the reader gets to see how the power of kindness can make for the greatest change. I feel like that’s so very lost in modern storytelling and it’s wonderful to see it here. The way it’s written and how the two grow together, I can’t help but love them for the characters they are. The two supporting characters are also fantastic with the one, the only, the legendary Oni no Mikoto being my absolute favorite.
While not specifically set in Feudal Japan, it’s very much inspired by it. We get to see bits and pieces of Japanese mythology brought into the world and it makes the story so very exciting! As a huge mythology lover, this is amazing! I smiled as I recognized some of the names and titles used. Yumeko and Tatsumi’s adventures allow for an exploration in the world to really get a feel for who the people are and what they face on a regular basis. There’s a certain amount of reverence given to the mythology that’s satisfying as we read.
I really appreciate how it’s incorporated as I’ve read other stories where the author writes in a way where either we as readers have to flip to the glossary or do our own research to understand the references. But Kagawa does an excellent job at weaving the explanations into the story so that it’s never broken and we can enjoy the story.
While I love the characters and the setting, the plot itself is not perfect. It’s a story involving a world ending plot and devastation on such a massive scale, yet the focus is never on that as much as one would imagine. I can appreciate the side plots and additional characters, but some of the side plots that occur feel almost random to an extent. I can’t help but make a comparison to a show like Samurai Jack. There’s an overarching goal that our heroes are working towards however they’re distracted by many side adventures along the way. But these side adventures are wonderful and really work to develop our two protagonists as we get to see how both view the situation and what to do. Yumeko’s kindness makes me genuinely smile and these mini adventures feel wonderful as we get to see her at her best.
The main villain in the story is rather forgettable but as you read on you realize it’s not about the antagonist but the relationship between Yumeko and Tatsumi. This made for a far more emotional and impactful story as their interactions with each other and those around them were the highlights of the book.
The only issue I have with the writing style is how the perspective is handled. This is a first person narrative with a shifting perspective between two protagonists and it sounds just as messy as you think. It takes a few chapters to get used to the pattern of jumping between the viewpoints of Yumeko and Tatsumi as the reader has to find clues to let them know whose perspective they’re viewing. It’s rather jarring at first as the reader is not quite sure what’s happening for the first few sentences until they realize who they’re viewing the story from. I think there is a strong argument to be made that third person narrative would have been a better choice here however it doesn’t ruin the wonderful story that’s told as eventually you figure out the pattern.
The word choice is easy to follow and understand which is very significant considering the number of references to Japanese mythology thrown at us. The way Kagawa weaves the explanations of each term helps to keep the reader invested in the action rather than having to do research. The shifting perspectives, while jarring at first, does work as Yumeko and Tatsumi feel like distinct personalities rather than the same person with a different face. This was my major concern considering the first person aspect with multiple points of view however I’m happy to say each character is written to be unique.
What Writer’s can learn from this Novel
Weaving mythological references together in a story without breaking the action is a monumentally difficult task, especially when referencing a culture that many may not be familiar with. But Kagawa does it very well here. At no point was I ever pulled from the story to have to Google what I was reading. I could be incredibly engrossed by the story while also learning and appreciating references to Japanese mythology.
It’s also wonderful to see such endearing characters written in a fun dynamic where they bounce of each other. Their growth feels natural and I can’t help but love each and every one of them. There was a character where at first I thought “why is he here?!” but soon I grew to love him for his silly and distinct personality. I felt invested as a reader about their fate as I genuinely wanted them to succeed. This is a really good trait for a story to have as strong well developed characters make or break a reader’s engagement.
P.S: Can I just say how beautiful the cover is? I’m so in love with it!! ❤