Publisher: Inkyard Press (formerly Harlequin Teen)
Page Count: 432
Release Date: June 18th, 2019
Series: SHADOW OF THE FOX, Book 2
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Note: A free ARC was provided to me by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the end of of SHADOW OF THE FOX
Things are not going well for Yumeko. She and her allies successfully defeated the demon general who tried to kill them in his pursuit of the wish-granting Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, but in the mayhem of the battle, Hakaimono, the demon soul inside warrior Tatsumi’s sword, managed to finally break his mental defenses and possess Tatsumi. Now Yumeko must decide – does she carry out her mission to get the Scroll to the Steel Feathers Temple, or does she try to rescue Tatsumi from the demon? And if she can’t rid Tatsumi of the demon, will she have the strength to kill him instead? Because Hakaimono is one of the most dangerous demons to ever roam the mortal realm, and if he returns to full strength, thousands will die.
SOUL OF THE SWORD is a solid follow up to SHADOW OF THE FOX, but not an outstanding one. While SHADOW OF THE FOX was a monster-slaying fest, full of dangerous creatures and one thrilling fight sequence after another, it feels like surprisingly little happens in SOUL OF THE SWORD. That isn’t to say that SOUL OF THE SWORD is a bad book – it’s still beautifully atmospheric with plenty of mythology at play. But while there are still some fight sequences, the plot here is much more about laying out the factions and pieces on the board, establishing who wants the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers and why. The plot of SHADOW largely stayed with one group, switching between Yumeko and Tatsumi’s viewpoints. Now the story is more fragmented, as Tatsumi/Hakaimono travel alone on their own goals, and some characters who operated on the fringes of book one begin to make bigger moves. The increased crosscutting slows down the pacing of the series a bit, in favor of some necessary exposition.
This fragmentation also leads to another weakness, the lack of the Yumeko/Tatsumi dynamic. Plot necessitates that they be separated for most of the book, what with him being possessed by an evil demon with his own agenda and all. Yumeko and Tatsumi’s budding relationship was one of the underpinnings of book one, and you can tell how much it is missing by just how well their few tragic scenes together WORK in this book. Tatsumi, trapped inside his own body, is desperate to see his life end and just as desperate to see Yumeko safe, and what little time they have together (thank you magical planes of existence) just tears at the heart.
SOUL OF THE SWORD is a book that suffers a bit by being the middle child. The whole traveling band is back to pledge their undying loyalty to each other as they take on all demons. But this book is definitely setup to the final book of the trilogy, and you won’t find nearly the same number of mythological set pieces that made up SHADOW. This is still a series I very much enjoy and I look forward to the final book, but I do miss the much more overt anime feel of book one.