✨Age Range: Young adult
✨Series: 3rd in a trilogy
✨Publication Date: 31st March, 2020
✨Publisher: Inkyard Press (US), HQ Young Adult (UK)
✨Format I Read: Audiobook
✨Content Warning: Violence, gore and death
Spoiler alert for The Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword
Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has given up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers in order to save everyone she loves from imminent death. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must journey to the wild sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate last-chance effort to stop the Master of Demons from calling upon the Great Kami dragon and making the wish that will plunge the empire into destruction and darkness.
Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil — the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop a madman and separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that had trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.
But even with their combined skills and powers, this most unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed… until now.
Characters and Representation in Night of the Dragon
My favourite character in the entire trilogy was, without a doubt, Yumeko. Her character continued to grow in this book too, which I appreciated. Her strength and resolve were put to excruciating tests and I was inspired by how well she handled everything thrown at her.
I also really liked the found family aspect in this book. I was scared for the fate of all of them and cared for each of the side characters deeply. I was pleasantly surprised by Suki’s character arc in this instalment.
I liked how equal page time was given for romantic and platonic love in this book. Familial relationships and allegiance to one’s clan were also brought up but in a stark contrast to the way they were handled in the first book. I really enjoyed the journey and how all of them were changed by their choices and circumstances.
Plot and World-Building in Night of the Dragon
I was quite disappointed in the plot of Soul of the Sword, which I thought suffered slightly from second book syndrome. I was apprehensive going into this book, but Julie Kagawa proved me wrong from page one. I devoured the book within a day because I was unable to stop listening.
It felt like she had reserved the best for the last as there was non-stop action from the start. I also think the device of foreshadowing was used very effectively by the author. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming but made perfect sense when they were revealed.
The world-building was one of the strongest parts of the entire series, of which I particularly enjoyed the different clans. Many Japanese myths and legends were deftly woven into the plot that added layers of conflict to the main thread. Aspects of real Japanese history were added to a world filled with fantastical creatures and I was amazed at how they were seamlessly integrated to create a very believable world.
Writing Style and Themes in Night of the Dragon
As Julie Kagawa has so much experience writing YA fantasy, I felt like she had the writing down to a science in this series. It was fast-paced when it needed to be but didn’t shy away from becoming descriptive when there was scope for it. I also thought the audiobook narrators did a very good job of bringing the story to life.
In terms of themes, the characters’ motivations were clearly influenced by traditional Japanese values and it goes to show that the representation wasn’t just surface-level. It was most apparent in the character of Daisuke, who firmly believed in bushidō even though it was contradictory by nature. Another example would be Yumeko’s struggle of choosing between collective good and personal gain.
Another aspect that really stood out to me was how the author handled the ‘good vs evil’ trope with Tatsumi and Hakaimono’s characters. It was captured in three different ways throughout the trilogy and it was very satisfying to see how that conflict was resolved. Overall, this series made a lasting impact on me because of how unapologetically and strongly Asian the story was.
While I wouldn’t call this series technically perfect, it definitely captured my heart and I went into a bit of a book hangover after I finished Night of the Dragon. If you are very nitpicky about plot structure, this series may not be for you. However, I believe it has something to offer to all fans of YA fantasy because it has the enemies-to-lovers trope, a high-stakes adventure and does not hesitate to put your feelings through the wringer.
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Have you read Shadow of the Fox? What are your thoughts on it? Which is your favourite YA fantasy written by a POC author? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!