Review: Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2)

Title: Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Review Copy: eARC received from publisher
Availability: Available now

Summary: One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

Review: (Note: This book includes graphic depictions of violence.)

I really enjoyed Shadow of the Fox, so I’m thrilled to report that the sequel, Soul of the Sword, is just as good—and even better in some areas. Yumeko continues to be a wonderful character, and her narration takes center stage over the other point-of-view characters since Tatsumi is essentially replaced by Hakaimono (more on him later). As Yumeko’s powers grow stronger in this book, it becomes ever clearer that she is the heart of her adventuring party. She is the one that they all rally around, and it’s her plan to save Tatsumi from the demon possessing him that the others put their faith in. She isn’t a fighter like the others, but her clever use of fox magic and trickery are used to great effect throughout the book, particularly in the finale.

With the first book villains out of the way, the threats against our heroes are far more interesting and, frankly, terrifying. Hakaimono gets multiple POV chapters in this book, and he is every bit as bloodthirsty and terrifying as the Shadow Clan stories made him out to be. Through him we get a great deal of backstory, not just about his imprisonment in the sword but also the Master of Demons, the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, and Iwagoto in general. Hakaimono is one of the more interesting villain POVs I’ve seen recently, so checking in on his demonic side of the story was always fun, even if it meant we essentially lost Tatsumi as a narrator.

Once again, author Julie Kagawa did an excellent job of building a memorable world. From a demon-infested forest to the Shadow Clan’s stronghold to a hidden mountain temple, Soul of the Sword was filled with interesting—and perilous—places for our heroes to explore. Kagawa also did a great job of giving further personality and backstory to our band of heroes, including strengthening bonds from the previous book and giving others a new layer to explore. (There is a male/male secondary romance that blossoms in this book, and I was thrilled to see it.) I’m curious to see where Kagawa will take us, both plot- and character-wise for the next book in the series.

Recommendation: Get it soon. Soul of the Sword was a fast-paced book that expertly balances the forward momentum of the plot against character development. Despite the loss of one of the narrators from the previous book, the book continues to flesh out the world and raise the stakes for our heroes. I’m looking forward to seeing where author Julie Kagawa leads us next.

Julie Kagawa: Japanese Mythology, Anime & Weapons Fighting at The YA Book Traveler