Night of the Dragon Left Me Starry-Eyed

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the light enthusiasm is all me 😉 *

night of the dragonHappily, I’m returning to the world of Iwagoto today, to talk about the finale in the Shadow of the Fox series. With a strong opening and the promise of plenty of emotional turns to come, I settled down for a night or two of wild reading 😉. Granted, I will admit there was a bit more telling at the start in order to recap the events of the last book, but it didn’t take long for the action to get going.

As with the previous instalments, the characterisation is a massive bright spot in the story. Yumeko is as likeable as ever; Tatsumi is broodingly conflicted. I liked the touch of having Tatsumi have a slightly different tone from the last book, though it was (understandably) a little more distant at times. Both of the main characters undergo serious character development- which I particularly liked in Yumeko’s case. The reveals about her history cut deeper than a samurai sword. Most of all, however, I liked Kagawa’s execution of the slow burn romance, with its ups and downs, giving the narrative hints of darkness and delight.

Once again, the adventure aspect was strong too. Not only was the writing sharp, the action was non-stop and on point. Even better, there was a tricksy ending that I wasn’t quite expecting! Kagawa doesn’t go for the straightforward happily ever after and yet still manages to deliver something sweet- which makes for a very satisfying conclusion to the saga!

Ultimately, while it took me a little longer to get into this book, I can’t fault this series for sheer entertainment, gorgeous characters and transporting me to a fantastic fantasy land. It was a very welcome distraction and I’m tempted to reread the entire thing! 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Soul of the Sword Had a Lot of Spirit

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the heartfelt gushing is all me 😉 *

soul of the swordWell, I said at the end of my review for Shadow of the Fox that I wanted MORE and I definitely got it! Let’s cut to the chase, cos this book throws you straight back in at the deep end. This sequel picks up where the last one left off: the soul of the sword has broken free. With careful weaving of myths and legends, it shows you why this danger tears at the fabric of the world. Immediately, the reader is set upon by a terrifying tale and thrown deeper into the story’s history.

Thus, the stage is set and the narrative takes off at pace. A new, sharp voice enters the fray. Kagawa gives voice to a new (but also technically very old), sharp voice. We get to see first hand the struggle between good and evil taking root in the heart of a man. The reader can hear the thoughts of the hero tempered through the viewpoint of a villain. It’s fascinating to see the story from this perspective and it certainly makes for a mind-blowing opener. Instantly, the consequences of the last book are being felt.

Yet, hearing echoes of one character through another is far from the only brilliant moment when it comes to voice. Character is dealt with so strongly that you can tell who’s talking right away and without looking at the name at the start of each chapter. Yumeko is distinguishable through her humour and has all the same charm of the first book- perhaps even a little more 😉

I really enjoyed the writing in this one as well. With beautiful descriptions and poetic dialogue, this is Kagawa at her best. Everything adds to the atmosphere, giving the story a faintly mystical touch. The story flows beautifully and comes to life at each turn.

The pace sets off at a run and never loses footing. There is a clear sense that the plot is edging closer to the dragon’s wish, whilst also throwing in more intense challenges at the master of demon’s behest. There are plenty of clever, little developments along the way- but I have to give the most credit to the ending: it foxily sneaks up on you and pounces when you least expect. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say (rather vaguely) that it both concludes the storyline of the book perfectly AND sets up some crazy stuff for the next one!!

I can’t quite tell where it’s all heading, but one thing I know for certain is that the romance ante has been upped- not least because there’s more than one couple I am rooting for! If you’re hunting for forbidden love, then I can safely tell you that is something Kagawa excels at.

And I’m delighted to say that this was better than its predecessor. This is the kind of YA fantasy that will keep pulling me back to the genre- its got so much of the fun and vibrant spirit that makes it all worthwhile.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Shadow of the Fox Showed Flashes of Brilliance

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

shadow of the foxLet’s jump right into this shall we? Because this book doesn’t waste any breath throwing you into the mysterious and immersive world of Japanese myths. With an ominous tone, which foreshadows some of the darker themes, the scene is set. As someone who is fascinated by legends of kitsune, I found this more than lived up to any conception I had of it. I adored how distinctive stories, embedded in a rich culture, were threaded through the narrative to create an exquisite reading experience.

One of the most effective ways this was achieved was through the fantastic characterisation of the main character- the girl who is half human, half mythical fox. Her voice was strong and had a wonderful comedic edge, which made the mood feel as perfectly balanced as a sword in the hand of a Samarai. Yumeko’s way of talking had a unique sense of innocence, while maintaining a humorous edge. Though she felt reminiscent of Puck from Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, she was also entirely distinctive and it felt great to have such a joyful character in the starring role for a change.

In case that wasn’t enough, comic relief came through in many of the other characters and really bounced off the more serious figures in the story. Through this contrast, the more murky personalities had a greater chance to shine. There were times when it did feel a bit headhoppy for me, but I also appreciated how every character- from Okame to the Kage warrior- had such strong and individual voices that this didn’t matter.

In terms of the rest of the writing, there was plenty of stunning imagery to maintain the illusion of this fantastical world. I especially appreciated how some images were cast against others in dichotomous harmony. Some descriptions were a tad samey- particularly since I saw exact words and images repeated on the same page- which, may seem like a nitpicky point (cos it is), made some parts feel repetitive. All in all, though, there were some standout lines in the book and the prose had a life of its own.

Though at times the story felt somewhat generic, the tension did climb towards the end. As much as I liked the way it started, the conclusion was even better. In a sensational finale, the book both closed a lot of chapters, but also opened up a path for new adventures. I for one can’t wait for the sequel!

I’ll admit, I’ve had my ups and downs with Kagawa over the years- but one can’t argue that any of her books are ever the same. Sure, she plays to some of her strengths here, and that works a charm. Yet what’s really remarkable here is what she does differently. For all the teeny tiny flaws, this was a definite return to form for an excellent author. So all that’s left to say is I WANT MORE!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Okey dokes, before I go, I wanted to add an update for the lovely Mim Inkling’s bookish bingo (cos this is for that and there’s still time to play!). I’ve kind of focused on this for the beginning of this month, so here’s some additions to add to what I’ve read: Comedy of Errors, Academic Curveball, Secret Countess, Twits, Warriors: Into the Wild.

Alrighty- who else has read this? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!