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Once a millennium, the great Kami Dragon rises. Whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers can demand the fulfillment of one wish, the consequences of which will alter the history of Iwagoto (a fictional world loosely based on feudal Japan) forever.

Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa.
416 pages
HARLEQUIN TEEN, Fiction.

Yumeko, a half-human, half-kitsune (trickster fox), grew up at the isolated Silent Winds temple, trained by monks to master and hide her yōkai (supernatural spirit) nature. When the temple is razed by a fearsome oni (demon), Yumeko flees with one part of the scroll. Almost immediately she bumps into Tatsumi Kage, a brooding (and, of course, attractive) samurai/hitman for the Kage clan who wields a sentient sword possessed by the demon Hakaimono.

Thinking on her feet, Yumeko says the two pieces of the scroll have been sent to the Steel Feather temple, and Kage agrees to guide her there, ultimately planning to steal both for the clan’s daimyo. Along the way they add Okame, a gruff masterless archer; the elegant Taiyo Daisuke, a master swordsman from the ruling clan; and Reika, a shrine maiden, to their group.

Essentially it’s a journey-driven story, where the primary plot revolves around characters getting from A to B, overcoming various trials and tribulations on the way. Kagawa dips into some unique aspects of Japanese folklore, and our heros face gaki (hungry ghosts), jorōgumo (half-woman, half-spider) and kamaitachi (weasel demons) with sickles for claws. Some of the descriptions will be repetitive for those already familiar with the language, but ultimately fans of series like “Inuyasha” or “Dragon Ball” will find a lot to like in this book.

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