Spoiler warning: I tried to keep this spoiler free but my paragraph about the third book does contain some spoilers as I couldn’t get my thoughts down well without actually talking about the plot point in some detail. The other paragraphs are spoilers free.
The Shadow of the Fox trilogy by Julie Kagawa takes place in a Japanese mythology inspired world where every one thousand years the person who is in possession of all the pieces of a special scroll can use that scroll to summon a great dragon that will grant one wish. The story of this trilogy is largely centered around several people who are trying to gather the pieces of that scroll to either use for a wish or to protect so it can’t be used to summon the dragon.
While this trilogy is definitely not a new favorite of mine I did think it was good and liked a lot of things about it. That being said, I did have some qualms with some things in individual books.
The first book was easily my favorite of the three and I rated it 4 stars. It was a very fun introduction to the world and our band of adventurers. I thought the plot was engaging and it read like a series of entertaining quests. My main issue with the first book was I constantly forgot whose point of view the current chapter was from. I’ve realized I am not a huge prose reader so normally if POV chapters kind of have similar writing it does not bother me a lot. However, in this book the chapter titles did not tell us who the POV was for a chapter and the two POV characters were together for almost the entire book so I couldn’t really rely on plot context to figure out how was narrating so I really needed unique voices to tell me who was narrating and I just did not get that.
I found the second book to have some issues with pacing. Some of the chapters just felt like they dragged on forever and I was not a fan of that. There was also a new main POV introduced in this book and I just did not enjoy it at all. I thought the majority of their chapters were boring and when that’s at least a third of the book, it definitely kills some of the enjoyment of the book and I gave the second book 3 stars.
I went into the last book with high hopes expecting it be better than the second, but unfortunately I was disappointed. The last books is completely action packed, which many people have said in praise but it just didn’t click with me. Fight scenes have never been my favorite to read but usually I can get behind action packed trilogy conclusions but this one just failed to enthrall me. I’ve been sitting on writing this review for about a week hoping I would be able to figure out how to articulate why it didn’t, but unfortunately I can’t quite get it into words. Another thing in this book I found to be lacking was how the plot line about the shared body of Tatsumi and Hakaimono. I was expecting there to be a feeling of two personalities trying to share a body with the POV narration, but there just wasn’t. Physically there was a mix of human and demon features and sometimes characters would call him Hakaimono but all of his actions and thoughts still felt to me like it was 100% Tatsumi. So I thought this sharing a body idea was a good premise with poor execution.
Despite my complaints about individual books, there were several things I felt the series as a whole did really well. The first, and best, being the atmosphere and setting. I thought the author did a wonderful job painting this immersive world and I felt like I was reading a novelization of a Studio Ghibli movie. I thought the Japanese mythology elements were really interesting and loved reading about those.
I was also super into the romance subplots in this series. There was some nice slow burn as well as diverse relationships represented. Both of these I found to be really well done and the author definitely had me invested in this part of the plot.
My last main praise of the series is the band of adventurers. I love me a story with a good band of adventurers going on quests together and this series did not disappoint on that front. I loved how the crew was assembled piece by piece as the first book went on instead of being thrown together all at once at the beginning of the journey. The relationship dynamics were well done in the group and while the characters did fall into some of the stereotypes, I had fun with them which is what matters to me more than a completely tropey free cast of characters.
Overall I would give this series 3.5 stars. Not a bad read, but definitely not a new favorite. It has definitely piqued my interest in reading more Asian inspired fantasy because I really enjoyed those aspects of it. And I think I would still recommend it if someone were specifically looking for Asian or specifically Japanese inspired settings.