YA Weekend: Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 2 of Shadow of the Fox
Publisher: Harlequin Audio (June 18, 2019)
Length: 15 hrs and 43 mins
Narrators: Joy Osmanski, Brian Nishii, Emily Woo Zeller
Shadow of the Fox was one of those rare YA novels that lived up to all my expectations and incredibly, its sequel was even better. Soul of the Sword expands upon its predecessor in all respects, including some of my favorite features like the world-building and the exciting quest narrative.
Picking up from the end of the first book, the story returns to our characters continuing their mission to deliver the Dragon Scroll safely to the Steel Feather temple to prevent their foes from possessing its great powers. But now, there’s hitch in their plans. Without spoiling too much from the previous novel, let’s just say that our half-kitsune protagonist, Yumeko, has her own task at hand, one involving a new enemy, the demon Hakaimono who has possessed the soul of Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. To save her dearest friend, Yumeko must find a way to protect the scroll and drive Hakaimono back into the sword in which the demon had been imprisoned for centuries.
Meanwhile, poor Tatsumi watches helplessly as Hakaimono leaves a trail of death and destruction all the way to the Forest of a Thousand Eyes, where lurks another source of great evil. The Master of Demons will do anything to get his hands on the Dragon Scroll, including making a few unsavory alliances if it means being granted a powerful wish—an opportunity that happens only once every thousand years.
Soul of the Sword is the best kind of sequel, the ones that introduce many more conflicts and drive the stakes up even higher. The book is organized into several parts, with the first picking up from the Shadow of the Fox without missing a beat, drawing readers back into the magic and allure of this fascinating world inspired by Japanese mythology. I also found the plot to be more streamlined and less scattered, which gave a boost to the overall momentum.
But although I enjoyed the first part immensely, the second part was where things really took off. I make it no secret that I loved the quest narrative aspect from the previous novel, and I was thrilled when I realized that Soul of the Sword was going to run with this theme in earnest. Sure, I had fun with those little “side adventures” in Shadow the Fox, but with this sequel, you get the feeling that things are getting real. In addition to taking a more focused approach, the story also carries a more serious tone this time around, with the themes becoming darker and more mature. And yes, this includes more action but also more violence, and the author is certainly hot holding back when it comes to the graphic depictions of bloody death and gore.
And then there are the characters. While I had a good time with Okame, Reika, Daisuke and all the others here, for me it has always been and always will be Yumeko that’s my favorite. Her character has come a long way from the first book, where she started off as a sheltered acolyte who has spent her whole life in a temple raised by monks. She has learned a lot more about life’s realities since then, and I loved seeing her kitsune side shine through on occasion whenever she plays her little tricks. And yet, it also fills my heart with warmth that she has retained a lot of her innocence and the sincere, impassioned way she views the world. I admire how she gets the importance of the big picture, as well as her fierce loyalty to her friends.
Of course, I would also be remiss to end this review without mentioning the world-building, which was wonderful. Once again, Julie Kagawa has delivered an enchanting blend of high fantasy and Japanese cultural and historical elements. I especially enjoyed the mythological aspects, the way this book packs even more tales of creatures and demons of legend into the mix. Yumeko also got to display more of her powers, which I was happy to see, because I felt that was one big that that was lacking from the first book. So, if you’ve been hoping for more kitsune or shapeshifter action, you’ll be pleased!
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way Soul of the Sword turned out; it was everything I wanted in a sequel and more. As well, I was fortunate enough to listen to an audio review copy, which was also the format I received for Shadow of the Fox. I was quite impressed with the performances by narrators Brian Nishii, Joy Osmanksi, and Emily Woo Zeller from the first book, so I was glad they all returned to reprise their roles. This one wouldn’t have been half as immersive if it weren’t for their brilliant performances, so kudos to the three of them!
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Shadow of the Fox (Book 1)