Japan is a country that fascinates people in the West. The Japanese technological achievements are ones to be marvelled by people all over the world. The Japanese culture and heritage though is a totally different thing which however plays a very significant role to today’s achievements. If you mix that with the Japanese mythology, you get an amazing story! And this is what author Julie Kagawa gives us with “Shadow of the Fox”.
One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Yumeko was raised by the monks of the Silent Winds temple being trained, all her life, to hide her yokai nature. Half human and half kitsune, she never really belonged to either species, but given her training she has worked more on her human nature. Being half kitsune too meant that she was really great at illusion and mischief, using her skill mostly to play pranks to the monks. The temple was isolated and there were no visitors there, so she was mostly free to behave according to her nature, to the length that was allowed by the monks. But one day, as she was returning to the temple from a walk at the forest, she came face to face with disaster. Her home was burned to the ground and her adoptive family was brutally slain. Demons had attacked the temple and her mission was to save the one and only valuable secret and greatest treasure of the temple. One part of the ancient Scroll of a Thousand Prayers.
Kage Tatsumi is a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Caln. He is a hunter of the scroll, as he has been assigned by the daimyo of the Shadow Clan to retrieve the pieces at any cost and he is a weapon of the clan. He doesn’t ask questions. He follows orders. On his way to the Silent Winds temple he finds Yumeko trying to flee the scene with some nasty creatures on her track. He saves her life and he promises to escort her to her destination which is another temple, a hidden one, the Steel Feather temple. It’s not what he would usually do, but if that’s the way to fulfill his mission, then he will make an exception.
These two are amazing characters! Yumeko is a naive, clueless, trusting and soft-hearted girl, unaware of the world and the dangers that lay out there, but at the same time she is smart and wicked and straightforward. She is kind and helpful even if she is so ignorant.
“Well, I learned that you really shouldn’t climb onto the temple roof at midnight during a rainstorm. And that if you’re going to pop out of a closet to scare a martial arts master, be ready to duck. And if you have to flee an angry bear in the forest by climbing a tree, you should first check that there aren’t any hornets’ nests hiding under the branches.”
Kage Tatsumi is the demonslayer. He was raised without any hint of love and kindness, compassion or mercy because he would have to leave feelings aside while he followed his path and his destiny. He is very disciplined, ruthless and dangerous for those that come in hos path and creatures that should not be roaming the mortal realm. He is not allowed to have his own existence. He is a weapon and he cannot deviate from his path.
“He didn’t know how to laugh, or smile, or have any fun. He didn’t know the pleasures of the simple things – laughing, dancing, finding beauty in the world. It seemed like a very boring existence.”
― Julie Kagawa, Shadow of the Fox
Another thing that I really enjoyed reading the book was the worldbuilding. I was fascinated by the Japanese folklore. I knew about the samurai and their way of living. Their honor and the elements that ruled their lives. But I didn’t know a thing about the creatures we get to see from the very beginning! The demons hailing from Jigoku, the realm of evil, like the oni and the amanjaku, the yokai that have animal forms like the kitsune, the kami spirits and the yurei. There is so much information on all those without becoming tiring or boring!
Overall it was a wonderful trip to Japan’s mythology and I can’t wait to delve into the next two books!