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Soul of the Sword: Shadow of the Fox, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Soul of the Sword: Shadow of the Fox, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Lots of gory carnage in engaging samurai sequel.

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A lot or a little?

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. Five-page glossary includes more on these creatures, some basic Japanese words and phrases, clothing, and more.

Positive Messages

Strength lies in more than muscle and power -- real resilience comes from deep within. Samurai values of honor, duty, loyalty are both upheld and questioned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Yumeko finds more of her strength here and begins to believe in herself and her powers to protect her friends. She runs into every situation trying to save others -- even when she's told to hide and be safe. LGBTQ representation here -- two important characters are gay men.  

Violence

Blood and gore dominate every fight scene and there are many. Bodies of mostly demonic creatures are torn apart by swords -- beheaded (so many heads rolling), sliced in half (one described as "split skull to groin"), arms sliced off (some magically regrown, one eaten by a ravenous floating head), a spine pulled out, a heart pulled out and crushed. One ambush is mostly arrows, with two deaths close to main  characters. Zombies attack, too, with one innocent fisherman killed, many body parts flying. Talk of a 200-year war and the massacre of families. Village of people found frozen in the snow.

Sex

Men kiss and talk of their attraction and a night together. Some innuendo.

Language

Mostly "bastard" and "damn," and not that often. The Japanese swear word "kuso" ("s--t" in English).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Men drunk on saki. Two elderly smoke heavily.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Soul of the Sword is the second in the Shadow of the Fox 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. Expect lots more gore in Soul of the Sword than in Shadow of the Fox. Bodies of mostly demonic creatures are torn apart by swords -- beheaded (so many heads rolling), sliced in half (one described as "split skull to groin"), arms sliced off (some magically regrown, one eaten by a ravenous floating head), a spine pulled out, a heart pulled out and crushed. One ambush is mostly arrows, with two deaths of people close to the main characters. Zombies attack, too, with one innocent fisherman killed, and many body parts flying. All other mature content seems incredibly mild by comparison: two men kiss, the same men drink saki, and older characters smoke. Some minor swearing includes "s--t" in Japanese -- a five-page glossary explains this and lots of other Japanese terms, mythological creatures, clothing, and more. Yumeko grows into a more capable female hero in this book, finding her hidden talents and power, and relying on her stubbornness, bravery, and steely resolve to save those closest to her.

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What's the story?

In SOUL OF THE SWORD, Yumeko is desperate to find Tatsumi and save him from the powerful demon who possesses him, but her companions and protectors -- a shrine maiden, a ronin, a noble, and a holy man -- are set on reaching the Steel Feather Temple to deliver the Dragon Scroll first. It's Yumeko's responsibility to keep the document that imparts one powerful wish every thousand years safe and hidden until then. All their plans will have to wait when they are ambushed by the Shadow Clan and taken to their castle. The powerful Lady Hanshou wants a word with Yumeko, and warring factions within the clan want them all dead. Meanwhile, Tatsumi's soul, buried deep in the demon Hakaimono now, watches helplessly as the demon spills blood wherever he goes. He follows a trail to the Forest of a Thousand Eyes and discovers a new source of evil hidden within: the Master of Demons, who will do anything to possess the Dragon Scroll.

Is it any good?

This samurai sequel remains just as cool as the first, with shadowy secrets, Japanese folklore, and compelling main characters, but here the demons are a lot more bloodthirsty. The heads really get rolling, so much so that by the last battle readers will feel a bit numb to it. (i.e. There goes another one, thunk, roll -- gross.) Much of the freewheeling carnage happens in the chapters that trace the demon Hakaimono's perspective, so it's to be expected. What's unexpected is the demon's voice in the story. This extremely vengeful creature from hell describes landscapes in flowery language and sometimes barely sounds like a demon at all. Perhaps a more natural choice for author Julie Kagawa would have been keeping the voice as Tatsumi's in these chapters.

The sections in Yumeko's perspective work the best, especially as she travels through dreams and ignites her own powers. It brings her and Tatsumi together in a deeper way and offers a blessed break from the bloodshed. Events are well set up for an exciting finale, especially when unlikely alliances form.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the gory carnage in Soul of the Sword. Did it add to the story? Was it too much? What did you expect by the final battle? Did it have the same impact?

  • At the heart of the struggle is good vs. evil, mortal vs. demon. How does Hakaimono fit into this? What about Seigetsu? What do they want in the end?

  • Will you read the finale? What do you think will happen to the main characters?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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