Shadow of the Fox

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Shadow of the Fox Book Poster Image
Samurai, demons, Japanese folklore; very cool, kind of gory.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Will introduce many readers to the world of the samurai in feudal Japan, as well as folklore surrounding kitsune (foxes), kami (spirits), yurei (ghosts), oni (demons), and more.

Positive Messages

Be generous to strangers -- it comes back to you. Samurai values of honor, duty, loyalty are both upheld and questioned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Yumeko begins as mischievous half-fox, half-human ward in isolated temple. When quest is forced upon her, she finds her bravery, resilience and is generous with others -- this saves her life, helps her form alliances. Tatsumi is trained to work alone, not trust anyone. Demon sword he carries makes him a danger to others if he loses control of emotions -- even good ones. He begins to rediscover humanity he thought was trained out of him.


Battles with demons using swords, arrows get pretty gory. Many die, including all monks in a monastery. A few decapitations, a sword through the neck of a demon bear, severed limbs pumping blood, poison claws that tear a woman to shreds. Zombie-like scene with angry dead in graveyard -- limbs hacked off to stop them. A crow is mutilated; blood is drawn for magic. Arrow pulled out of back. Servant girl lured into shed and murdered by demons. Fights with human bandits; sexual violence threatened. A man talks of taking advantage of a passed-out teen. Talk of whole village destroyed by demons.


Mention of a teen girl's virginity and of concubines. A statue noted for its giant scrotum.


Infrequent use of "hell," "ass," "dammit," "bastard," "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sixteen-year-old drinks sake to drunkenness for first time, passes out, wakes up with hangover. Another man is usually drinking sake, often to drunkenness. Sake at festivals and parties. A pipe is smoked.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shadow of the Fox is the first in a series by Julie Kagawa, the best-selling author of the Iron Fey series. It's set in a magical version of feudal Japan with creatures out of Japanese folklore, including one of the main characters, Yumeko, who is half-fox, half-human. Yumeko meets a samurai, and together they fight some nasty demons. Expect some gory scenes with decapitations, a sword through the neck of a demon bear, severed limbs that pump blood, and poison claws that tear a woman to shreds. Angry dead in a graveyard are hacked apart to stop them. Two men threaten sexual violence against Yumeko, who's 16 -- once when she tries sake for the first time and passes out. Another older character is often drunk on sake, and the drink is served at festivals and parties. Strong language is infrequent and includes "s--t" and "ass." Yumeko especially grows into the hero role on her quest, finding her bravery and resilience. Her samurai companion begins to rediscover the humanity that he thought was trained out of him.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byKatsune November 22, 2020

Yes Good Book

If you have the slightest interest in Japan then I recommend this book. Its quite violent and there is sake being drunk but people over 13 shouldn't have a... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAnne of Green Gables August 18, 2019
Really good book but very confronting

What's the story?

In SHADOW OF THE FOX, Yumeko is a half-human, half-fox living in a remote monastery when her guardian, Master Isao, tells her a secret. The monks are guarding a piece of scroll that summons a dragon once every thousand years. This dragon grants one wish -- any wish -- to the one who reads the whole scroll. Of course, the thousand-year mark is drawing near, many are after the pieces of the scroll, and Master Isao senses that evil is coming. This warning couldn't have come soon enough. Demons ransack the monastery, killing everyone inside but Yumeko. She escapes into the forest, where she finds a samurai named Tatsumi, wielder of a demon-slaying, demon-possessed sword. Not knowing how else to save herself, Yumeko teams up with Tatsumi. He's a good ally to have, saving her from demons and witches and blood mages sent after them. But the alliance could turn deadly if Tatsumi learns her secrets: that she's part-fox and carries a piece of the scroll he's looking for.

Is it any good?

The start of this Japanese-inspired fantasy series is not always executed cleanly but feels entirely fresh and bursting with cool ideas as it mixes samurai, demons, and folklore. A glossary would have helped immensely -- Wikipedia does a little -- as many readers are introduced to kitsune (foxes), yokai (half-human beings), kami (spirits), yurei (ghosts), and oni (big, nasty demons). Old samurai movies and the wonderful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will also familiarize readers with this kind of storytelling. Foes appear in the woods and small villages during the quest, some with supernatural powers, some just highly skilled swordsmen and archers, and need to be vanquished one after the other. Author Julie Kagawa's foes are all fascinating, as are her two leads: Yumeko, a naive yokai outside the monastery for the first time, and Tatsumi, a trained assassin who's never known kindness and will become possessed by his demon sword if he shows too much of it.

Yumeko is not always a clearly drawn character. One minute she's naive, another she's cunning and resourceful. Tatsumi's fear that he's losing himself to the power of the sword is not explored as much as it could be -- too bad, because it's a fantastic idea. Still, there are huge surprises at the end to gear readers up for the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Japanese folklore in Shadow of the Fox. How many creatures did you know before? Where can you find out more?

  • There's some gore here. Is it easier to read about in a fantasy world with demons and ghosts? Or just as jarring? 

  • Will you read the next book in the series? What do you think will happen to the two main characters?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and Asian stories

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