A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
Be generous to strangers -- it comes back to you. Samurai values of honor, duty, loyalty are both upheld and questioned.
Positive Role Models
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of a teen girl's virginity and of concubines. A statue noted for its giant scrotum.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Infrequent use of "hell," "ass," "dammit," "bastard," "s--t."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Thrilling Books for Teens Who Love Fantasy
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate