Review: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Review: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

‘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 men. He’s drawn to her anyway. When he finds her fox bead, he does not realize he holds her life in his hands.

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 and reignite a generations-old feud… forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.’

Wicked Fox is a hugely enjoyable read and one of my favourites of the year so far. I used to watch a lot of K Dramas and probably will return to watching them soon, as there are many elements of Wicked Fox that mirror elements found in them (Miyoung herself actually watches K Dramas as a method of coping with a lack of affectionate human interaction). It’s a well-paced read that allows for both development of the supernatural and mythological elements within the story while spending quality time with the characters during ‘downtime’ in a manner that forms a well-rounded cast that the reader quickly and easily begins to care for and becoming invested in the futures of.

Miyoung is a girl trapped between worlds, unable to exist fully in the human world as a ‘normal’ girl and unwilling to fully embrace her gumiho side and live as others of the same nature do. Her mother offers her very little guidance in how she might navigate either world, determined to protect her at the cost of all else, including showing her the affection that Miyoung quietly craves, leading her to believe that she will never be good enough for her mother to love and be proud of. In many ways, Miyoung tries to emulate her mother, creating distance between herself and others so as to better survive and ultimately protect them, leaving her ill-equipped to respond to more friendly interaction that falls outside of the norm that she has lived with her entire life. She has a keen sense of what she believes is right and wrong, which leads her to reject some of the needs of her gumiho side, and also means she is more than willing to stand up for those she believes are being treated unjustly (I loved a particular interaction with Changwan in this vein), except, in most instances, herself, for fear of what she might do. It’s primarily through her interaction with Jihoon and his halmeoni (grandmother) that she begins to experience and understand all that she’s missed from her human half, to the extent that it both highlights to her all that she lacks to a distressing extent and makes her fearful of it going away. Miyoung has many of the necessary aspects to become the typical ‘all powerful’ YA heroine, and that she doesn’t is a refreshing change, the focus more on her learning to embrace her human side than a story of her developing her powers. To my mind, Miyoung certainly is a heroine and I adore her story arc, and I was pleased to discover that it was not one of her eventually exploiting her more magical gifts.

I have a particular love for stories that include legends and mythology, and one of the structural features of the narrative that I enjoyed is the flashbacks to the origins of the gumiho (and one gumiho in particular) that gradually become more and more clearly relevant to the main narrative. The magic and mythological elements of the story don’t seem out of step with the contemporary setting, perhaps mostly because they serve as an addition to the story while also being at its heart, and the narrative’s focus seems firstly to be on character interaction and not the magical world. The contemporary and magical elements fit neatly into the same world, each enhancing the other and lending aspects that might not be seen if the novel were to be purely of the fantasy genre.

Wicked Fox is out on June 25th from Penguin Teen!

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