Shadow of The Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox is Japanese inspired fantasy that completely exceeded my expectations.  It’s full of exciting action, cram packed with intriguing demons, myths and folklore, the characters are heart warming and on top of that it’s a quest style story which just really appeals to me.

The story is told through three characters.  My favourite is Yumeko, a half human/kitsune whose love of mischief quite often results in her being in trouble with the Monks of the Silent Winds Temple where she has been raised since the day she was left at the entrance.  The monks have told Yumeko that she must hide her true nature from people who would treat her differently if they knew of her Yukai (half demon) nature.

Kage Tatsumi is an assassin for the Shadow Clan.  He bears a demon possessed sword and runs the constant risk of the demon taking over his own mind.  Subsequently his clan have raised him to withstand pain without showing emotion.  He’s had a fairly brutal and cold upbringing without any sort of affection as emotions are believed to weaken the resolve.

The final character is a young serving girl named Suki.  Her story is so sad and in fact we read about Suki before we meet the other two characters.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Suki meets a shockingly brutal end and returns as a ghost – a rather timid ghost if I might say so.  She trails her mistress watching her actions from the shadows.

I loved having the three POVs.

Yumeko and Tatsumi cross paths fairly early in the story.  Basically, and I’m not going to go overboard on the plot but there’s an ancient artefact – a scroll in fact.  Every 1,000 years the bearer of the Scroll will be granted a wish by the Kami Dragon.  The time is approaching and so you can imagine a number of different people are interested in it’s whereabouts.  The Temple where Yumeko was raised is attacked by demons searching for the scroll and Yumeko is the only survivor.  On the run she herself carries the scroll, her quest to take it to the Steel Feather Temple for protection.  This is when she literally runs into Tatsumi – who was himself heading to the temple in search of the scroll on behalf of his master.  The two make a tentative agreement, based on untruths if you will.  Tatsumi needs Yumeko in order to find the location of the temple and Yumeko needs Tatsumi to help protect her on the journey.

I loved the world created here.  It’s just so full of creativity that I couldn’t stop reading.  Every new chapter brings something fascinating to the page and it was like a breath of fresh air.  There are angry ghosts, blood magic, demons, curses, forest spirits, witches and Samurai – I don’t know how anybody could fail to be impressed to be honest.  I just loved it.

The story is told as a quest.  Basically, Yumeko is travelling across country in the hope of finding the location of a secret temple.  Along the way she will meet with many side adventures and mishaps, usually of the quite deadly sort.  Her naivety and simple goodness eventually starts to break down Tatsumi’s carefully constructed barriers and clearly the two begin to share a certain chemistry.  However, there is no romance involved, at this stage anyway.  Yes, the two are clearly becoming attached but they’re both keeping secrets and so neither one is keen to completely relinquish control.  I loved jumping from one pov to the other.  It helped to show how they both felt about each other, their frustrations along the way and just the way that they are so very opposite in nature, one very light and fun, one very dark and brooding.  They almost balance each other out.

On route they gather a couple of other characters.  In particular a rogue Samurai (ronin) and a member of the nobility to name but two.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, obviously this is a set up for the two main characters to become attached.  In fairness though, I really didn’t mind that aspect of the story.  It’s a slow burn and even now nothing is guaranteed.  This is also a quest style adventure – think Lord of the Rings style.  So it’s really less about the scroll and more about the journey.   I think my main criticism is the actual quest itself.  Carrying a secret, highly sought after scroll across the country, involving the revealing of a secret Temple where another part of the scroll is also hidden – what could possibly go wrong?  I can picture the ‘baddie’ stepping in at the end and thanking them for bringing the two scrolls together so perfectly.  And Suki’s part of the story is a little weak and feels very much like an obvious way of getting us a pov perspective within the Imperial Palace.  Maybe Suki will play more of a role in the next instalment though.

As it is, I thought this was wonderfully entertaining, the pace was perfect and I fell for Yumeko.  She’s a wonderful lead character and one that just pulls you in with her innocent and trusting nature.  I defy you not to like her.

I can’t wait to read more.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Advertisements

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Just finished reading Immortal Rules by Julia Kagawa as part of her Blood of Eden series.  I actually liked this more than I anticipated.  Now, I realise that seems a negative thing to say but there has been rather a flush of vampire/dystopia books on the market for quite some time and so whilst part of me thought I’d give it a go, another part was a bit reluctant so this book had a bit of work to win me over and it succeeded.

Basically, the premise for the book is fairly simple.  Set about 60 years into the future a disease has spread through the world killing off many people – a bit like a plague, Red Lung, struck fast and laid cities and towns to waste.  At this point the vampires, who have always secretly lived amongst us, became exposed.  Their meals on legs were diminishing rapidly and the threat of human extinction forced them into the open!  Action was needed and the vampire overlords set up cities, cities, with humans working for them and also acting as donors.  Supposedly a peaceful arrangement although given the predatory nature of vampires people still mysteriously disappeared from the streets.  The vampires therefore found a way to survive.  What of the humans, why would they live in this way?  Well, not only vampires came out of the woodwork when the strange plague hit.  Rabids also became abundant.   Not quite vampire, not quite human and any human bitten by one will themselves succumb to the disease.  And so, Rabids seem to have become the majority shareholder!  There’s a lot of them and like vampires they’re strong, fast and lethal.  They move only in the night and constantly crave blood – unlike vampires however they have no restraint and are driven into a frenzy at the sight of humans.

At the start of the story we are introduced to Allison.  An orphan, Allison refuses to be one of the masses donating blood.  She lives unregistered in the outer limits of the city.  Life as an unregistered is hard.  Always hungry, begging for food and constantly scared of being caught and punished, sometimes driven to the extreme of going beyond the city walls to scavenge for left overs.  Outside the walls live the rabids.  They can smell the humans and their desire for blood drives them to cities where their prey is more abundant.  On one such occasion when the pangs of hunger are unbearable Allison discovers a secret cache of food outside the walls perimeters.  The following day she returns with her small gang to retrieve the food but disaster strikes when the rabids attack.  Near to death, salvation for Allison comes in the form of a vampire who gives her the choice of immortality.  Will she choose to become one of the monsters that she’s always loathed or will she instead choose death?  Well, it would have been a fairly short story if Allison had made the latter choice!

I’m not going to go into the rest of the plot too much.  Allison goes from vampire in training, to travelling in a pack of homeless people trying to find ‘Eden’ to a daring rescue attempt from a cruel city run by a powerful overlord and populated by bandits.

What I liked about this book was that the author gives us a strong likeable character.  Allison is no simpering female.  She’s lived a harsh life and as a consequence she’s tough.  As a vampire though she’s beset by internal conflict, a little like Louis in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.  I don’t suppose we’re introduced to anything new or revolutionary here.  Vampires need blood to survive, they sleep in the day and would die if exposed to sunlight.  A stake in the heart and decapitation are the best ways of extermination.  I suppose what is different is Allison’s attempt to cling to her humanity and not to let her inner demons take control.

In terms of the rest of the characters not a lot really stand out so far.  Allison narrates the story and some of the other characters pale a little bit in comparison.  I certainly thought the overlord baddie could have been worked on a little more.

Of course I did have a few criticisms.  There is a little bit of repetitiveness in the story where you have a feeling of deja vu when reading.  There was also the consideration of whether the author would fall into the human/vampire love ‘thing’ and whilst she didn’t totally succumb there is the start of a romance developing at the end of the story.  I’m not really a big fan of this scenario.  My other little niggle was the cover – I know I shouldn’t bang on about it but the cover of this book doesn’t seem to me to portray an asian girl.

Other than that I thought this was a good start to the series and I will definitely continue.  I look forward to seeing how Allison develops.

I received a copy of this book through the publishers via NetGalley in return for a honest opinion.