This will be another book that I was behind on since it actually made the rounds on social media a couple of years ago. When I was looking for a book to help kickstart my reading for summer though the blurb and marketing on this one really caught my attention. Inspired by K-dramas and Korean folklore this book promised a unique setting after a long list of mainly YA fantasies set in a European world that I’ve been reading this year.
Gu Miyoung is a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox that consumes the life force of men in order to stay alive. Though forced to feed off of the lives of others, Miyoung only feeds off of those who have committed the worst crimes. The life of a gumiho is one of contradictions as she and her mother have to stay near their food source, but separate enough to never be found out. Everything changes for her though when she comes across Jihoon, a local boy being attacked by a goblin. She not only saves the boy, but loses the one thing central to her being a gumiho; her fox bead. Unable to take the life force of others and faced with her own in jeopardy, Miyoung and Jihoon must work together to find out how to put the bead back in her.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I’ve been wanting to read something not only set in Korea, but in Seoul after getting obsessed with Kpop and K-dramas and falling down that hole in YouTube back in high school. The YA market of course didn’t immediately meet that need, but we are finally here! This book promised Korea, Korean folklore, and k-drama and it brought it in a richly immersive way. One of the things that had my interest really piqued coming into this was the nine-tailed fox, which I was familiar with but because of the Japanese anime, Naruto, so this all feels like I’m leading myself into a short research mode regardless. I was hoping to get some idea of where the concept of the nine-tails came from, and this book seemed to hook on that old curiosity from the beginning (and you know I’ll be looking up both the Korean and Japanese info on them as well after all this!).
Since the story world is Korea, both the modern urban setting of Seoul and the rural Korea for the original gumiho’s part of the book there is a reliance on building a reality for this story, and Wicked Fox did a great job at this. Between characters like Hwang Halmeoni (Jihoon’s elder neighbor), the descriptions of food, and the different sections of Seoul (rich vs. poorer neighborhoods) you start to get a really good taste of the world and the feeling that you could fly on a plane and be in the middle of all this. It’s similar in feel to how Cassandra Clare brought us the world of the Shadowhunters, all of the magical and other-worldly aspects layered with what we know to be true in our own reality, so it doesn’t feel odd accepting there could be a teenage girl sucking out the souls of really bad men in a dark alley. In theory it sounds pretty crazy, but in the description and setting of this book it really works, and also gives credibility to the shamans and other creatures we see in this world as well. This urban but magical world really captured my attention and held it throughout the story.
Now to what I would say is perhaps the strongest strength of this book; its characters. There are a decent amount of characters in this book, but the list of truly important ones isn’t too bad, and each one of them are really well fleshed out. Jihoon and Miyoung of course grow a lot through the course of the story, having to rely on one another as she works through the struggles of no longer being able to feed as she had before. The characters that surprised me quite a bit were Jihoon’s friends, his grandmother, and Miyoung’s mother. I won’t go into too much detail since that would be spoiler territory, but can say that I love characters that seem to be pretty cut and dry on the surface level. Most of these in well written books turn out to be due to the narrator’s limited perspective of that character, and in Wicked Fox, Kat Cho did a great job of showing us that limited scope. There were twists and ‘oooh’ moments that caught me off guard and had me glued to what would happen next.
To sum up this review, I’d say the marketing blurb for once was actually right. If you do have interest in anything Korea honestly, and would love some Korean folklore this book is a really good way to experience that. It’s actually making me want to look up that old curiosity I had in the nine-tailed fox and I am loving that. This was an amazingly good, and immersive read and definitely recommend to anyone looking for an urban fantasy.