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


Content/Trigger Warning: Human sacrifice, graphic death/murder, war themes, graphic violence, loss of loved ones, physical abuse, implied/talk of torture, threat of rape, talk of suicide, and there is a scene that might be hard for people with arachnophobia

“He told me that the tiniest pebble, when dropped into a pond, will leave ripples that will grow and spread in ways we cannot comprehend.” 

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.

Shadow of the Fox is an absolute blessing and Julie Kagawa has delivered a captivating book. The first chapter will leave you wondering what is about to happen next or have you saying “Just one more chapter!” Once I made the connections with Japanese mythology and legends, I was hooked and now I can’t stop talking about it. This has definitely been a book of great highlight for me and has made it’s way into my top 2019 books! And the second book in this can’t come soon enough!

In case you didn’t know, this is an own voices Japanese inspired fantasy. While this book does follow three main characters, there are two minor characters to keep an eye on because they may play a bigger role in the future that we, as the readers, aren’t aware of yet. They all end up being forced to work together, while a demon army rains death and destruction.

Main Characters

🌻 YumekoRaised by monks in the Temple of the Silent Winds, half kitsune, who is a lot better at illusions than she gives herself credit to. Soon she finds her life thrown into chaos as her only home is ripped away from her by the destruction of an army of demons. Now she will embark on a quest to a hidden temple to bring half of the ancient scroll to safety.

“In this vision, I have seen blood and flames and death, demons shrieking and rivers of bones, and the world grows dark with fear. But a single fox stands above it all, untouched, a great dragon cast in her shadow. Her name is Yumeko, child of dreams, for she is our hope against the coming darkness.”

🌻 KageSamurai/Shanobi of the Shadow Clan, one of the most feared and deadliest warriors and demon slayers ever, even though he is very young. Wielding the blade of Hakaimono, a sword sealed with one of the most deadliest demon generals of his time, Kamigoroshi, Tatsumi is constantly tested with how strong his will is. Sent on a mission by his clan to retrieve a piece of the ancient scroll by any means, instead he finds Yumeko and makes a promise to deliver her to the hidden temple in exchange for the scroll.

“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.”

🌻 Lady SatomiThe wild card in this entire story! Cruel, wicked, and unpredictable, she’s a diabolical lady with an evil plan up her sleeve. She’s the emperor’s favorite concubine, but little does anyone know what she does in her free time. Sacrificing newly hired maids to her demon army, Lady Satomi is after the ancient scroll as well. Leaving a trail of blood, death, and demons in her wake.

“Lady Satomi stood a few paces away, her hair unbound and tossed by the wind, the sleeves of her red-and-black kimono fluttering like sails. Her eyes were hard, and her lips were curled in a tiny smile.”

Minor Characters to Watch

🌻 SukiBits and pieces of her were sprinkled throughout this entire story. Daughter of a celebrated flute maker, Suki is shipped off to work as the new maid for the favored concubine of the emperor to live a better life than running his shop. Soon turned into a spirit, Suki keeps holding on to the realm of the living to spy on the one who caused her death. I truly believe Suki will play a much bigger role in this whole series and I can’t wait for it!

“It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.”

🌻 SeigetsuA mysterious person indeed. A stranger who ends up saving Yumeko from a terrible situation. Possibly a lone samurai, wields a giant sword. He does come back later on in this book and that twist was everything I needed! I have no doubt he is going to be playing a key role in future books!

“He looked powerful, with his golden eyes and giant sword; even the wind witch seemed afraid of him.”

When all of the pieces of the scroll are finally combined together, whole once more, a dragon will rise and the person who has summons it will be granted any wish their heart desires. So long as their heart and soul is pure and good, that is. Should that person be anything but pure and good, I hope you brought a wet suit because it’s going to get very messy. Many people are searching high and low for these pieces of the scroll so that they can combine them to have their wish granted. And let’s not forget, there’s a demon army running rampant trying to bring the end of the world, true apocalypse type stuff. But some people really need their wish granted. You know, for the sake of all humanity to survive.

One thing I will say about this book, if you’re not familiar with Japanese culture, history, legends and mythology ( Granted, things and creatures mentioned in this book are described) then there will be a lot of parts that might not make a lot of sense. Blessings upon Julie Kagawa because she also included a glossary at the back of the book for those who aren’t familiar with the Japanese language, as well. But sometimes, our imagination cannot measure up to the real thing or seeing a physical representation. So if you ever read this book and you have no idea what different types of yokai and demons are supposed to look like, I encourage you to look things up.

I think the biggest thing for me with this book, it feels like a slice of familiarity. Reading about this group of people traveling together remind me so much of some of my favorite anime shows like Inuyasha or Samurai Champloo or even Naruto. I always love seeing various group dynamics come together and how their personalities mesh with each other. Julie Kagawa has done a marvelous job with this. The way Yumeko and Tatsumi are together is so unique and works so well with one another, that I’m constantly craving more. Even as characters were added to their group, the way the different personalities bounced off one another was so good. I love it and I can’t wait to see how the various personalities continue to bloom and grow in Julie’s future books in this series!

Of course, at the heart of this book you will find that there is always friendship. Yumeko constantly shows us in this book that kindness and unconditional love are the two most powerful forces in the world. As you read this book, Yumeko is slowly opening Kage’s world and showing him just how truly powerful both of those are. Their dynamic will make readers go speechless. I can’t even put into words how much I adore their dynamic and how much they open each other’s world. Not to mention, this is only the beginning of a slow burn romance and I am here for every second of it! The minute these two characters crossed paths, I knew I was going to be very attached to them and they did not disappoint!

Original art by sXeven. Shared by Julie Kagawa on Facebook.

“Watching her, I found myself holding my breath, unable to look away. For just a moment, with her dark hair rippling about and her skin glowing under the lantern light, she was mesmerizing.”

The most important thing the author weaves into this book is probably the most heaviest topic, but one that isn’t often talked about. We always have a choice, there is always two paths to take. No matter our past, no matter where we come from, no matter the sins our family has made or the wrong our ancestors have done, we have a choice of making things right and to start doing good. And there is no small or big act of kindness that won’t go unnoticed. That one little act can make ripples that we can’t even see or know about. It’s never to late to apologize, right any wrongs, and forgive. Hate is a very consuming and heavy thing for the heart and soul to bear, but revenge is just as heavy.

“The future,” she said, her voice echoing over the crowd, “is an ever changing stream. Every choice, every decision we make, sends it down a different path.” 

Overall, Julie Kagawa has given me a book to love and cherish for the rest of my reading days. This is the own voices Japanese fantasy I needed to wake me up and push me to get back into fantasy. I don’t think I could love the book anymore than what I already do. By the time this review is going up, the next book in this series will be releasing shortly after and I’m so ready for. The ending makes you want to keep reading and I have a thirst for needing to know. Everything this book has is simply magical and holds such an important message. I simply love this book and I don’t think I will ever be over these characters!



Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan


Arc provided by Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warning: War, death/murder, violence, fighting, self-harm (both for a magical system and talk of self-harm in the past), torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, use of alcohol (possible alcohol addiction), gore, talk of human sacrifice, strong religious fighting.

You can find my first review of this books on my GoodReads.

“You could be exactly what these countries need to stop their fighting. Or you could rip them apart at the seams.”

Let me start this review off by saying how much this book took me by storm! This has been an anticipated book for so many people and I wasn’t expecting to become someone obsessed with this book, but here we are and now I feel like no other book can compare. From the lyrical writing to characters that captivate you with a strong pull, to the beautiful descriptions of the themes: this book sunk it’s talons into me and has found a place within my heart. This debut fantasy, filled with blood magic and a cleric born to serves the gods (if this doesn’t give you D&D or role playing game vibes then I don’t know what will), blew me sky high and then some!

The author pulls from Russian and Polish inspiration and we get two countries, the Russian inspired Kalyazin, and the Polish inspired Tranavia. We also get the deserts of Akola, which we meet a few characters from, but there’s vibes within this book that those deserts will be explored in later books. With this book being so fast paced, we quickly realized how different these two countries are from one another when it comes to religion. We see how far each country is willing to go in the name of their religious beliefs. These two countries are warring, and the author never shies away from that, but they are also beautifully woven together to create such an immersive and captivating world and setting.

“Are we so different, Nadya?” He lifted his hand, fingers tipped with long claws, and pressed his thumb against her lips. “We both long for freedom. For power. For a choice. We both want to see our kingdoms survive.” 

Our tale begins with a girl who has lived and hidden with the protection of a monastery’s walls for her entire life. She has power unlike any other, and it’s her people’s only hope to not only restore the faith of the gods, but bring them back into power. Yet, there are plenty of people willing to do anything to make sure the goods and their religion(s) stay silenced forever. And as fate would have it, the girl’s world is turned upside down when her monastery is brutally attacked by the enemy. She and her friend barely escape with their lives, while everyone stays behind to ensure they can flee to safety. Yet, the cunning prince commander quickly learns the girl is not among the dead. The girl desperate to live and not to have her gods be silenced, is willing to do almost anything to live. Even if that means getting help from a powerful rebel mage, who has many skeletons hidden away in his closet.

“The girl, the monster, and the prince…” 

Nadya – The cleric who can speak to all the gods
Malachiasz – A blood mage, who believes he’s a monster
Serefin – Bisexual icon: Also, a blood mage prince of one of the most powerful realms in this world, but the king is trying to ensure that no one can contest his power, while also wanting to use his son as a martial pawn. He also has a visual impairment and is unable to see out of one of his eyes. 

(Beautiful art of Nadya by Nicole Deal at NicoleDealArt)

All three of these characters? They’re all morally grey characters who have all stolen my heart. Okay, let me be honest…I may be a bit bias towards Malachiasz, but maybe I just connect with him a lot more than the other characters. Although Nadya comes pretty darn close. We do get more disability and sexual representation by some of the side characters. If I could tell you how many times my bi-radar went off, you would be shouting at me like “Calm down!” We also get many characters of color to add even more diversity into this outstanding book. I can’t wait to watch these characters bloom and flourish in later books! However, I may have a soft spot for Ostyia who the author did confirm is a tiny, murder lesbian and as a short, bisexual girl myself….this has given me absolute life! I’m always here for fierce, kick-butt ladies of sexual representation!

Okay, I’m hear to dish on our main girl Nadya a little more because my nerdy self has to gush a little. Also, I really loved how the author crafted the religion and the saints of this book. Truly beautiful and fascinating. First off, I come from a vary colorful religious background of my family being divided into Christian, Catholic, and Apache faith/religion. So you know I come from a very diverse upbringing. However, on the opposite spectrum of that, I have played so much D&D, Pathfinder, done a lot of misc. role playing, and even to this day still do LARPing. And I kid you not, I have always had characters who are clerics, healers, and (in opposite contrast to those blood mages) my most favorite and recent character I LARP as, rogue mage. Seriously, my nerdy-self can’t contain my hype for a book with mages and a cleric who can speak to the the gods. A cleric who has been blessed by the divine (holy cow, YES!). Also, the fact that we get so many moments of Nadya and her banter with these gods, all of whom have different characteristics and personalities, was probably one of my most favorite elements the author has added to this book! I loved it!

Once again, let me take this time to express how dark of a book this is. Please see my content warning above because self-care is so important when reading these topics. It took me so long to get through this book because I had to take time to process what I was reading and making sure I was caring for my mental health. But one of the major magic systems in this book is blood magic, where people will use their own blood (most of the time, freshly cut) and merge it with pages of a spell book to be able to wield their prepared spells and harness their magic. This is something I feel is so heavily represented in D&D, there are a lot of Lovecraft theme board games that feature this, and even some video games will feature it. And I loved every second of it because I’m so familiar with the blood mage characteristics. The author did an exemplary job of weaving the true power of the blood mage into this book.

“Dazzle the monsters, Nadya. You’ve already charmed the worst of the lot; the rest should be easy.” 

I feel like I need to talk about the romance in this book because I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was near the end and I was shook! Now, let me say this because I know a lot of early reviewers who have read this book and didn’t love this romance….this type of romance is an acquired taste. You’re either going to love it or you’re going to say fuck this. That’s just how that type of romance goes. For me, I live for a dark, forbidden, “evil and good” type romance. I live for it, I eat this romance for breakfast. I will go as far as saying I married a chaotic neutral person (which if you’re a nerd and have played D&D, you know what I’m talking about here). Reading this book, even though we had two POVs, I always assumed Nadya was the star of this book. The pull to her was a lot greater than Serefin. So regardless of who Nadya who she would develop feelings for. If you’ve been around my reviews and myself, then you know I always go for the first character who spells trouble with a capital ‘T’. So, when Malachiasz started getting closer and closer to each other…I was so here for it. This book had me thinking that Nadya was about to be made Queen and I was losing it when Malachiasz scooped Nadya, told everyone to fuck off, and put her to bed. Their slow burn, friend-enemy romance was so delicious and I devoured that. So naturally, the way this book ended left me as a husk.

Overall, this book just landed too many punches in my personal arsenal. My only issue with this book was the ending. I felt like there were far too many unanswered questions and it didn’t even leave off on a cliffhanger. But that epilogue just about killed me. The author did an amazing job making the epilogue from The Black Vulture’s point of view. I really think Emily A. Duncan has crafted such a unique book that will make readers wanting more. Wicked Saints is such a beautiful debut and just a hard punch for starting off this series. I can’t wait to see what Emily has in-store for us in the next book, especially since this ending left so many things unanswered and left so many broken pieces of my heart scattered all over the pages. 

“We’re all monsters, Nadya, some of us just hide it better than others.” 


The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.