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Literature / Shadow of the Fox

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"It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don't do a great job of it."

The Shadow of the Fox series is a series of Young Adult books by Julie Kagawa. Set in a fantasy version of Japan called Iwagoto, it centers around a Kitsune girl trying to protect a magic scroll and a shinobi boy trying to retrieve the very same scroll.

Long ago a greedy lord saved himself from the wrath of a sea dragon Kami with a prayer. Now the dragon reappears every thousand years, allowing the human who repeats this prayer word for word one wish. But after the last time ended in chaos and darkness, the scroll bearing the words of the prayer has been separated into three parts that are all kept safely and separately.

Yumeko is just another half-kitsune being raised in a temple and playing pranks on the monks when the head of the temple reveals a secret to her: Her temple is hiding one of the three scrolls, and soon the time will come again when the dragon rises and everyone will be trying to get their hands on the scroll. She has barely had time to process that information when her temple is attacked by demons, and she makes a narrow escape with the instructions to take the temple's part of the scroll to safety.


Kage Tatsumi is a shinobi with a cursed sword, instructed by his clan to retrieve the dragon's scroll. But when he arrives at Yumeko's temple, all he finds is a girl escaping from the sack of her home and telling him the scroll is gone. Yumeko promises to take him to it, and she needs someone to protect her on the journey. So they make a deal. There's just one problem: Yumeko is lying to Tatsumi about not having the scroll and not being a yokai, and Tatsumi would kill her if he found out...

The first book of the series, Shadow of the Fox, was published in 2018. The second book, Soul of the Sword, came out in June 2019. The third, Night of the Dragon, is scheduled for April 2020.


The Shadow of the Fox series contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Reika's mother was verbally abusive to her daughter her whole life and tried to use her for her own gains, pressuring her into marrying a rich samurai instead of becoming a miko.
    • Tatsumi doesn't seem to have any parents to speak of, but the adults who raised him qualify too, having been verbally as well as physically abusive.
  • The Alcoholic: Okame never goes far without his sake and complains when he has to go sober.
  • All-Loving Hero: Yumeko is friendly and good-natured and tries to be nice and reach out to people wherever she can.
  • Almost Kiss:
    • Between Daisuke and Okame in a dream sequence belonging to one of the two that Yumeko visits. Whether or not they do kiss in the dream is left open, since Yumeko's white fox companion pulls her out of the dream just before.
    • Moments later Yumeko and Tatsumi get their own when meeting in Yume-no-Sekai. They are interrupted by Yumeko waking up.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Okame. His official Love Interest is Daisuke, and he has commented on Yumeko's attractiveness and possibly making a move on her—though, given that he never shows any signs of attraction to her beyond the one scene where he makes these comments, it's unclear how much he actually means and how much he simply says to mess with Tatsumi.
  • Anyone Can Die: And by the end of the third book, almost everyone does.
  • Artifact of Doom: The sword Kamigoroshi contains the demon Hakaimono, who is just waiting for a chance to possess its bearer. People who wield the sword rarely end well.
  • Ax-Crazy: Hakaimono just wants to slaughter everything and everyone.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Especially if the bear in question is called Kiba-sama and is an onikuma, i.e. a yokai bear.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Yumeko has this effect on people, most notably Okame, who simply tags along with her and Tatsumi because she helped him.
  • Beta Couple: Okame and Daisuke to Yumeko and Tatsumi.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Genno is defeated, Hakaimono sent back to Jigoku, Yumeko manages to stop Seigetsu from achieving his goal, but all her friends have to die for it to happen, including Tatsumi. But at least she has found her mother again and can start a new life with her, and Tatsumi is later reincarnated and finds her again.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: The squad's search for Master Jiro (and Lady Satomi, who saw him last) leads them to infiltrate a festival at the emperor's palace near the end of the first book.
  • Casting a Shadow: The Shadow Clan's magic is centered around shadows.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Taiyo Daisuke, the young noble Suki meets in the first chapter, later meets our main heroes as Oni no Mikoto, and then joins the party.
    • Genno, the Master of Demons, is only mentioned briefly in the first book but turns out to be the Big Bad in the second.
  • Cliffhanger: The first book ends on a huge one, with Tatsumi possessed by Hakaimono and Satomi revealed to be working for a mystery employer who's not human, and then killed.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Yumeko is sheltered and naïve, often oblivious to human social cues, and has a lively imagination that often creates the strangest ideas.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Yumeko's real form has fox ears and a tail.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Tatsumi has undergone Training from Hell and was badly abused by his educators in the process. Something also seems to have happened to Okame in the past, though it has yet to be revealed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Okame always has a witty remark on his lips. Reika also has her moments.
  • Demonic Possession: A very real risk for every wielder of Kamigoroshi, as Hakaimono is just waiting for a chance to possess their body and be free. It does happen to Tatsumi later, when he develops feelings for Yumeko and lets down his guard.
    • There's also a heroic example done by Yumeko, who uses kitsune-tsuki to possess Tatsumi to drive Hakaimono out of him.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Yaburama and Satomi both turn out to be this, ending up dead by the end of the first book to clear the stage for the greater villains, Hakaimono and Genno.
  • Doomed Hometown: Or rather, doomed home temple in Yumeko's case. The Silent Winds temple is attacked by demons and destroyed at the beginning of the story, and she's the only one who escapes.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Daisuke is noted by several characters to have a very feminine-looking face.
  • Enemy Mine: Hakaimono and Tatsumi pull one at the end of the second book, merging souls to keep Tatsumi's mortally wounded body alive and be able to stop Genno (and, in Hakaimono's case, get revenge on him).
  • Everyone Can See It: Tatsumi's feelings for Yumeko are glaringly obvious to everyone else—that is, except Yumeko herself.
  • Evil Weapon: Kamigoroshi, due to being possessed by an Ax-Crazy demon.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Empire of Iwagoto is just Japan by another name. Language and culture are the same.
  • Faux Flame: Kitsune-bi, or foxfire, can do nothing except confuse those who expect it to burn like normal fire. Except in the spirit world, that is.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Tatsumi struggles against Hakaimono when the latter possesses him—to no avail.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The noble Daisuke initially looks down on the ronin Okame, but after fighting alongside each other and almost dying, they quickly forget their differences.
  • Grand Theft Me: Hakaimono takes over Tatsumi's body at the end of the first book.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The dialogue contains quite a bit of perfectly translatable Japanese words.
  • Guile Hero: Yumeko is good at smarting and tricking her way out of situations.
  • Guyliner: Many noblemen wear makeup around their eyes, as appropriate for the setting.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: This is how Okame appears to feel about Daisuke—he has a hard time believing the noble views him as an equal and doesn't look down on him as a ronin, to the misery of the latter, who does genuinely like him.
  • Invisible to Normals: Yumeko's real form, as well as the rest of the yokai world, can't be seen by ordinary humans. The only one in the party who instantly recognizes her as a kitsune is Reika, who regularly deals with the supernatural.
  • I Owe You My Life: Said to Yumeko at different points, first by Tatsumi and then by Daisuke.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Iesada has an antagonistic role, his point about Kamigoroshi being too dangerous to use rings true, especially the part about countless children's lives wasted because they don't survive the first few weeks as the demonslayer (though his issue is with the waste of human resources, not with the cruelty of it all). Of course, that doesn't absolve him of trying to kill Tatsumi, or stop Yumeko and her companions from saving him by having them killed too, all to prove his point.
  • Jidaigeki: Though not technically set in Japan, the story takes place in feudal Japan by another name and with a different geography.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Yumeko goes on one near the end of the second book to free Tatsumi from Hakaimono's possession. Which leads to…
  • Kill 'Em All: Out of the main cast, Yumeko is the only one to survive to the end, though Tatsumi is later reincarnated.
  • Kitsune: Yumeko herself is one. Half kitsune anyway, which is practically the same as a normal kitsune.
  • Legendary Weapon: The sword Kamigoroshi is somewhat Famed in Story.
  • Literal Genie: This is apparently how the Kami Dragon's wish-granting works. The Shadow Clan samurai who wished for Hakaimono to be stuck on earth forever created Kamigoroshi and got his revenge, but was consumed by the oni and ultimately killed, and the evil he created is still out and about. Lady Hanshou, meanwhile, once wished for eternal life and got it—but forgot to wish for eternal youth with it, so now her body is aged beyond measure.
  • MacGuffin: The three scrolls; everyone wants them, and the story is centered around them.
  • Master of Illusion: Yumeko's fox magic is illusion, and years of practice have made her pretty good at it. The Kage's shadow magic works in much the same way, too.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Master Isao, Yumeko's teacher since childhood, is hit with this at the very beginning of the story, in the inciting incident that makes her leave the temple with the scroll.
  • Miko: Reika is a shrine maiden.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: To normal human eyes Yumeko looks like an ordinary girl, but reflective surfaces show her true kitsune nature.
  • Named Weapons: Kamigoroshi. Literally translating to "Godslayer".
  • Ninja: Tatsumi is one for the Shadow Clan.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: The beings of Jigoku are always just waiting for a chance to betray their allies. In particular, Genno stabs Hakaimono in the back after forming an alliance with him the moment he thinks he no longer needs his aid.
  • Oblivious to Love:
    • While everyone else can see Tatsumi's feelings for her from a mile away, Yumeko is dense as a brick. The idea that he might be in love with her never even crosses her mind, no matter how obviously others hint at it.
    • Okame, towards Daisuke. He doesn't believe himself worthy of the latter's feelings and barely expects to be liked or treated as an equal at all, even platonically. He's also actively in denial because he's afraid of the consequences a relationship between them would have.
  • Paper Talisman: Reika fights demons using ofuda.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: The default mode of interaction among the nobility. Daisuke is an expert at it; the rest of the party, not so much.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A half-kitsune masquerading as a peasant, a shinobi with a cursed sword, an alcoholic ronin, a swordfight-obsessed noble, and a miko and an old temple master walk into a bar—er—search for a scroll...
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Downplayed with Lady Hanshou, who does look incredibly old, though not the thousands of years she has actually been alive.
    • Played straight with Seigetsu, who appears like a youthful adult man, but has had a yuki-onna owing him a favor for centuries.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Yumeko and Tatsumi at the end. He is killed, but promises to find Yumeko again in his next life, and in the epilogue he does.
  • Rōnin: Okame is one and lives like a bandit before deciding to follow Yumeko around.
  • Samurai: They're everywhere in the story. Yumeko thinks Tatsumi is one too, but he's actually a shinobi.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Yumeko has a great deal of trouble understanding Okame's sarcasm at the beginning. She gets better.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Hakaimono is apparently a Sealed Evil in a Sword, though he's still capable of possessing the sword's wielder if they're careless enough.
  • Seductive Spider: A Jorogumo appears in the first novel whose upper body is a beautiful woman in a black-and-red kimono with her lower body that off a spider. Her MO is to seduce the Lord of the castle into giving her sacrifices who she webs up and lays her eggs in. They are then eaten alive from the inside out.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The Kage excel at silently sneaking up on people out of nowhere.
  • The Stoic: Tatsumi; it's a job requirement to avoid demonic possession. When he starts falling for Yumeko and becomes Not So Stoic, guess what happens...
  • Superpowered Evil Side: When the wielder of Kamigoroshi has him under control, this is how Hakaimono works. The demonslayer temporarily lets him take over to win a battle, though it's something that should be avoided at all costs since each possession strengthens the demon's hold over the wielder's mind, raising the risk of Demonic Possession.
  • Survivor Guilt: The Path of Shadows tends to bring it out in people.
    • Yumeko sees the monks of the temple accusing her of leaving them to die and being furious at her for surviving, calling it unfair. She almost listens to them until she realizes it's not actually their souls calling out to them, and she's being tricked by her own fears and guilt.
    • Okame sees his brother, Yasuo, who he claims to have betrayed and have left to die. He is so caught up by the illusion that he very nearly follows it into Meido and would have died but for his friends' intervention.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The story alternates between Yumeko and Tatsumi's points of view, as well as the occasional third-person POV chapter from Suki's perspective. Later on we also get Hakaimono's point of view.
  • Team Pet: Chu and Ko, the two komainu who join the group alongside Reika and Master Jiro.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Tatsumi's eyes are purple, though it's not clear if this is natural or a result of the demon in his sword. Gold eyes also tend to crop up.
  • Tyke Bomb: Tatsumi has been raised to be the Kage demonslayer—i.e. a human weapon—since his clan chose him to be Kamigoroshi's next bearer when he was only elementary school-aged.
  • Villain Team-Up: Hakaimono attempts to pull one with Genno, but it backfires when the latter betrays him and nearly seals him back into Kamigoroshi.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Yumeko has to watch her home, the Silent Winds temple, be destroyed and burned down by a demon attack.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Tatsumi has obviously never experienced anything close to it, but Yumeko is also new to romantic love. It takes them both appropriately long to figure out their feelings for each other.
  • Wild Card: Seigetsu. He knows more than he should, has been aware of the real Big Bad before anyone else, and pursues his own agenda that has yet to be clarified. Whose side he is on or what he's after is a mystery.
  • Yōkai: The story is chock-full of them.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Members of the Taiyo family often have naturally white hair from youth. Apparently this is normal.