YA Weekend Audio: Night of the Dragon 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): 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 3 of Shadow of the Fox
Publisher: Harlequin Audio (March 31, 2020)
Length: 13 hrs and 19 mins
Narrators: Joy Osmanski, Brian Nishii, Emily Woo Zeller
No ending is perfect, but damn if Night of the Dragon doesn’t come close. For once I felt the hype was well deserved, and I’m really glad I picked up this trilogy because Julie Kagawa’s talent continue to explode with creativity and new insight.
But if you are not caught up with the series yet, be aware that this book is the concluding volume of Shadow of the Fox and picks up after Soul of the Sword. The unlikely duo of kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko and Shadow Clan samurai assassin Kage Tatsumi have nearly reached the end of their adventure, but not without having faced much danger and challenges along the way. In their quest to protect the Dragon Scroll and keep it out of enemy hands, Tatsumi was possessed by the demon Hakaimono, and while he has regained control of his body, the evil presence within him still fights to get out. It has made him wary to be around his friends, especially Yumeko, whom he has grown to care about. She’s the only who can keep him anchored now, and the last thing he wants is to see her get hurt.
However, their journey is not finished yet, and with the Master of Demons now one step closer to calling upon the Great Kami dragon that will destroy the world, Yumeko and Tatsumi must travel with their companions to the sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate attempt to seek potential allies. Meanwhile though, another powerful and mysterious force with designs on the scroll watches and waits, ready to spring its trap when our heroes least expect it.
I’ve really enjoyed the books of this series so far, the first one for its quest narrative and rollicking adventure, the second one for its character development and heart-wrenching drama. But this third volume handily became my favorite by combining all these elements and a whole lot more, tying everything up in a stunning conclusion. Fans of far east Asian-inspired mythology will also delight in the way legends and creatures from Japanese folklore heavily feature in this story, as readers will encounter everything from terrifying sea monsters to elusive forest gods and spirits. The action never lets up for our characters as they continue to fight for their survival, and Yumeko herself also discovers much about her kitsune heritage and where she comes from.
Speaking of which, kudos to Kagawa for some of the best characterization and relationship building I’ve seen in a YA series. Night of the Dragon spends a considerable amount of time shining the spotlight on Yumeko and Tatsumi’s growing bond, which is not surprising, seeing as it has been in development since the first book. And the results, my friends, are completely worth the wait. Watching this slow burn romance finally come to fruition was extremely satisfying, made even more heartwarming by the deep connection now shared between our two characters. At first, I was concerned about the potential angst and unnecessary drama that Tatsumi’s demon possession would introduce into the mix, but I was glad Yumeko shot that down right quick.
Things culminated in a conclusion that was utterly magnificent and unforgettable. In general, I am on the fence when it comes to bittersweet endings, but only because I think so few authors can actually pull it off. But to my astonishment, here we have an ending that truly manages to hit that perfect spot between the bitter and the sweet, and I’m not going to lie, but tears were in my eyes by the very last page. I don’t know how else I can describe it, other than it was deeply touching and incredibly beautiful.
In sum, Shadow of the Fox might be one of my favorite YA series in a long time, and much of it is due to Night of the Dragon capping it off so damned exquisitely. I’ll admit I haven’t always been impressed with Julie Kagawa’s work, but this trilogy has undoubtedly shown how much her skills have grown over the years. This book was everything I’d hoped for, and the whole experience has made me feel energized and excited for YA again.
Audiobook Comments: Once more I was fortunate enough to receive an audio copy for review, and narrators Joy Osmanski, Brian Nishii, and Emily Woo Zeller reprised their roles. Again, I was blown away by their performances, which wonderfully complemented the storytelling and characters. If you’re considering picking up these books, know that the audio format is a fantastic way to experience this series.