Book Review: Night of the Dragon

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Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3)
by Julie Kagawa
YA Fantasy
384 pages
Expected publication date March 31, 2020 by Inkyard Press

 

Circumstances are dire for the kitsune trickster Yumeko and her friends. The final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers is in the Master of Demons’s hands, and he has a head start- not to mention an army aiding his passage to the summoning site in the mysterious Moon Clan territory. If Yumeko and her band of unlikely heroes can’t stop the demons, their master will summon the Great Kami Dragon, make his wish, and plunge the world into chaos and darkness.

Meanwhile, Tatsumi has come to an accord with the demon Hakaimono, and both will aid Yumeko in her quest. But even with Hakaimono’s skills added to his own, Tatsumi will be hard-pressed to protect Yumeko against an army of demons.

And none of the heroes knows about a final player in this great game is about to show his hand- one who has been waiting in the shadows and pulling the strings for a long time.

“No, I wasn’t worried that he would betray us. I worried that his guilt and the fear of what he’d become would prompt him to leave for our saftey. That one night, Kage Tatsumi would slip quietly away into the shadows, and I would never see him again. Knowing Tatsumi, he would try to find and confront Genno on his own, and though the demonslayer was incredibly strong, I didn’t know if he could single-handedly destroy the Master of Demons and his army of monsters, blood-mages and yokai.”

There are a lot of expectations for the last book of a trilogy. Multiple storylines must converge, character arcs must find their endings, the books’ overarching story must come to a satisfying conclusion. Conflicts the author has been building up to must find their resolutions in just the right amount of time. If the author fails to deliver on any of the elements, and the entire trilogy becomes weaker for it.

Fortunately for the Shadow of the Fox trilogy, Julie Kagawa delivers a finale that is suspenseful, heartbreaking, and ultimately satisfying. The primary characters, Yumeko and Tatsumi, have grown and changed throughout the trilogy and become something more than the naïve trickster and emotionless warrior they began as, but without losing the core traits that made them who they were. Both have learned and changed for the better, growing into people who can face their greatest fears and risk everything to save not only each other but the rest of the world, too.

This is not to say that the rest of the characters are flat and unchanging. Even the ghostly Suki grows, becoming less shy and more accepting of her state. She learns to be happy for the living, not resentful for the life she was denied. It’s hard to say good-bye to each of Kagawa’s characters, but they have earned their farewells.

The Shadow of the Fox trilogy is often described as a ‘traveling story’ because Yumeko and her friends travel great distances, encountering new friends and new enemies in an episodic fashion that could seem random if Kagawa had not had a clear plan for all three books at the outset. Each encounter serves not as a way for Yumeko and her friends to ‘level up’, but for them to learn new ways of dealing with conflict that help them more than any new fighting stance or battle strategy could. Though surrounded by warriors, Yumeko consistently looks for a way to resolve conflict without fighting, but is not unwisely opposed to it if there is not other way out. She might seem like a naive and flippant character at the beginning, but Yumeko develops wisdom throughout the three books without losing her innocence or becoming jaded by the darkness in the world.

Though dark and gritty realism is the trend for fantasy novels– even for YA fantasy– Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox trilogy serves as a breath of fresh air for readers who have grown tired of protagonists whose chief characteristics are sarcasm and a tendency to attack first and ask questions later. There is romance and humor, political intrigue and action, magic and mysticism, and a wealth of lore based on Japanese legends and folktales. For readers looking for a fantasy series that doesn’t rely on the same old European-based settings, or characters who are more than sword-slinging smart badasses, Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox trilogy is a must-read, and Night of the Dragon is a fitting end to a beautiful tale.

 


Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Night of the Dragon

  1. Very effective review! I haven’t read this series yet, but I’d like to. Ditto reflections on Seven Deadly Shadows — Japan, Fantasy/Mythology. This isn’t modern, but that’s okay. I’m still so into it conceptually. I’ve only put off reading as all the books weren’t published. Yay! I can start now!

    Interesting that this is described as a “traveling story”. I really only think of sweeping epics like The Lord of the Rings this way. Do you agree with the moniker?

  2. Yeah, I’d definitely call it a traveling story, especially when it comes to the first book. The characters are doing almost nothing but traveling.

    The whole trilogy reminds me of a Studio Ghibli anime, and I could just picture it with Miazaki’s animation style, so that helped me get into it.

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