When I read Shadow of the Fox a few weeks ago, I was just going by my dear friend’s recommendation and wasn’t sure what to expect. But to my pleasant surprise, I completely fell in love with it and my excitement doubled when I got approved for the ARC of this sequel. Second books of beloved series can always be tricky but I’m so delighted that this book exceeded all my expectations.
Just like in the first book, the world building in this one too is phenomenal. We get introduced to more creatures and monsters from the Japanese mythology, one more scarier than the other and it was such a joy to read. Some of them are so vividly described that imagining them really scared me and I think that’s a great testament for an author. As the group is on another journey through the story, we get introduced to more new settings and I loved how masterfully the author brought them to life – whether it be the eerie palace of the Shadow clan or the guardians of the Steel Temple. I can only say that the way the world was expanded and given more detail in this book was very interesting and we also get enough clues to realize that we are going to encounter more terrifying things in the next book, and I can’t wait for it all.
I didn’t expect to fall more in love with the characters but I did. Yumeko is not the same naive little girl from the first book – the fight at the end and the loss of Tatsumi have made her more determined. She is still trusting and doesn’t understand sarcasm yet (makes for a lot of hilarious conversations), but she also learns to accept her kitsune nature and develops her skills to have a fighting chance. She may not understand her feelings towards Tatsumi, but she still never wavers from her decisions and does whatever she can to protect her friends.
I wasn’t expecting to get a POV of Hakaimono but it is definitely fascinating being in his head. We know he is one of the greatest and most powerful demons and he is very confident about his abilities, but he has also been a captive in a sword for centuries in the company of humans. This definitely seems to have had some affect on his personality, which makes for some very sarcastic comments from him that had me chuckling. However, it is also painful to read because he keeps taunting Tatsumi, who is struggling with whatever will he has left to hold on to his soul.
Daisuke and Okame are a pair of contrasting characters but I just loved their interactions. One who totally believes in the samurai code and wants to live and die by honor, the other who revels in being dishonorable – the two of them are just such unlikely companions but the development of their friendship is wonderful to read. I just wish we had gotten atleast one of their POVs so that I could know more about what they are thinking in their hearts. Reika may look like she just wants to fulfill her duty but she does like Yumeko and will do anything to protect her. The whole group just bickers throughout the book but I could only smile at their interactions because they genuinely care about each other. I was also surprised to see Suki’s POV continue but she has some very crucial moments and I loved it. Seigetsu is still a mystery but I have a feeling he is gonna bring lots of troubles into the life of my favorite characters.
While I loved the first book, it was mostly a slow paced journey with a bit of action in between and towards the end. In this book however, the author upped her game. We still have a journey but there are more dangers, the characters are more skilled and the monsters are more scary. There is a lot more action and some of those sequences are absolutely terrifying and exhilarating. The book also felt much more fast paced, probably because there was a lot more happening and the stakes also felt much higher this time. While most of the characters think Yumeko and Tatsumi love each other and we can guess that it’s where the story is going, I’m glad that the author still left it at a point where they are unsure of their own feelings and figuring everything out. The development of another romance came as a bit of a surprise but I am totally there for it, and I’m actually much more excited to see what lies in store for them in the future. The whole illusion part of Yumeko’s magic got a lot of page time in this book and the author showed a lot of imagination in these scenes, the one towards the end being absolutely mind blowing. I was also expecting the Tatsumi/ Hakaimono storyline to go in a predictable direction, but the twist the author gave towards the end was so surprising, I’m still recovering from it. The buildup towards the end was done amazingly well and I think the payoff was worth the wait.
All I want to say is that if you loved the first book, you are gonna be very very happy with this one too. This sequel is darker and scarier, much more action packed and our characters have grown so much that we can’t help but root for them. This is the perfect second book where the stakes kept getting higher and higher – which ultimately gave us a thrilling and unpredictable but very satisfying ending, while also leaving us many exciting clues for the much anticipated third book. That wait is gonna be long and excruciating.
PS: Thank you to Harlequin TEEN (Inkyard Press) and Netgalley for providing me with this advance review copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.