This week’s One Word review will be Gods of Jade and Shadow.
And the award for the destination that was not worth the journey goes to…
Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Reading Challenge: Booklist Queen’s 2022 Reading Challenge
Prompt: YA Fantasy
I’ve had this lingering in my Audible library for a while now and, since it fits a reading challenge prompt, I felt I might as well read it now. Yumeko has spent her whole life in an isolated monastery, being taught how to hide the powers that come with being a half-kitsune. One terrible night, the monastery is attacked by a powerful yokai and Yumeko barely escapes with her life and the fragment of an ancient scroll. That scroll is the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, the bearer of which will be granted a wish by the Kami Dragon who only rises every thousand years. Naturally, it isn’t just the one who attacked the monastery who wants the scroll badly. Kage Tatsumi, bearer of a demon-possessed sword and samurai of the Shadow Clan, has been sent to retrieve it at any cost. Yumeko has to conceal the scroll and request Tatsumi’s protection under the pretence of going to retrieve it from a secret location. The question is can she keep the deception of that and her true nature from someone trained to kill yokai like her?
Now, I really can’t speak for the historical accuracy of this interpretation of samurai-era Japan but I will say that the integration of Japanese words with the English doesn’t particularly work in this case. It honestly makes the book sound anime-ish and not in a good way. If they had cut down on that, they could have made the world seem more Avatar-ish. It already did on some level with families called ‘Shadow Clan’ and the ‘Fire Clan’. It’s just a pity they didn’t go fully in that direction. The plot had an episodic quality to it as Yumeko and co bounce from obstacle to obstacle without any sense of progression other than accumulating more party members. The characters felt more like two-dimensional architypes too. When the climax did come, I’m sorry to say it was a disappointment, especially with all that build-up from the beginning. The final scene, in particular, was very clumsily added and didn’t feel like it belonged in the book at all. I’m really not keen on continuing the series at all after that. It’s just typical YA fare with nothing to make it special.
And the award for one of the most explicitly adult fantasy book I’ve yet read goes to…
The Last Sun by K. D. Edwards
Reading Challenge: Popsugar 2022 Reading Challenge
Prompt: A book about a secret
I saw this recommended on several LGBTQ book lists so I decided to pick this up and find a place for it in my reading challenges. Rune Saint John is the last survivor of the Sun Court. He scrapes a living off doing odd jobs for Lord Tower, who took him in after the attack that wiped out Rune’s family. When Lady Judgement’s son, Addam, goes missing, Lord Towers hires Rune to investigate. With his bodyguard, Brand, in tow, Rune dives into Addam’s family and connections among the New Atlantis elite, looking for anyone who might harbour a grudge. What he finds is much more than just a missing man case but a legendary creature that may be connecting to the Sun Court’s massacre.
Okay, I’d better drop a trigger warning right away because I wasn’t warned going into this book. This book references the sexual assault of a minor several times and, around the two-thirds point, there’s a flashback-esque scene of the moments just before it takes place. If you’re not in a good place to read about that, definitely give this one a miss.
The prompt is ‘book about a secret’ but it might be easier to say what isn’t a secret in New Atlantis. The network of elite families, the Arcana (all named after tarot cards), all have their own agenda and one of them has at least one conspiracy going within them. Everyone is looking out for their own interests and any kind of failure or weakness gets no pity. The world building is incredibly intricate with a fully-fleshed history of the Atlantians’ relationship with the human world, who is looking to settle a score with who, what lines can’t be crossed and how they built their city (on land, this time). So intricate that I definitely didn’t pick up on all the details. The story requires your full attention too and it is rather easy to lose track of what’s going on (or, that might be because I was rushing through my audiobook again). The characters are absolutely worth paying attention too. Rune is a great flawed main character but my favourite, however, was definitely Quinn. He stole every scene he was in and I loved the way the author put a new spin on the gift of prophecy. The magic system was very well thought out and the story always kept my interest, pulling off a very good sequel hook. Go into this fully aware that there are some very adult themes (and scenes) but, if you’re ready for them, I promise you will enjoy it.
I hope to see you again very soon.