There’s this mythological creature that lives within the East Asian countries. China, Korea, and Japan all have myths about this wild beast and so many interpretations. I’ve seen Chinese, Korean, and Japanese tv shows including this character. It is the nine-tailed fox. And this story written by Korean American, Kat Cho, is most definitely that tale come to the States. I couldn’t be more excited.
Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.
But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.
Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.
With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.
I’m going to be honest with you, this book read like a K-drama. That’s not a bad thing! I absolutely love a good K-drama. It was filled with its tropes, but it also has one of my favorite Asian folklores; the nine-tailed fox! There were even moments in this book where I thought I was watching a dramatic moment in a K-drama. If you’re a fan of K-dramas, this might be the book for you. As much as I love the tropes in K-dramas, I’m not sure if they worked in this particular fantasy story.
In many ways, it felt like this book was grappling between being a Korean drama and being a YA fantasy story. The juxtaposition took me out of the story a few times especially when the focus became more about Jihoon and Miyoung’s budding romance. In those instances, it felt like a drama; getting drunk at the children’s playground in the middle of the night (no children present), almost being hit by a car with the headlights beaming right before the dude pushes her out of the way of the car. Even Jihoon’s grandma owning a stew shop was so reminiscent of the older “rich girl/poor boy” trope.
As for the YA fantasy components, I really liked them. I wasn’t a fan of how Kat Cho presented the world building through truncated stories between chapters, but it did give you an idea of where this particular nine-tailed fox story came from. I was definitely intrigued by that part of the story and I really wanted more world building and more development in this area. I think my main issue with this story is that it felt like it didn’t know what it was itself. In some cases, it was a story about mythical beasts among us, but in other instances it felt like a budding romance between Jihoon and Miyoung. And it felt like jumps between story. One minute they’re concerned about some mythical thing happening, but then the next minute they’re getting drunk at a children’s playground in the middle of the night.
That all being said, I did really enjoy the story and the immersion into a story that took place in Seoul. There aren’t many Korean-based YA fantasy stories out there, so I’m glad that this one is included. While I wish this didn’t read so much like a debut novel, I’m very excited for the books in the series after this. I think Kat Cho’s potential can only go up from here.