Book Review: Wicked Fox

Cover of book shows Korean teen girl with her back to a boy. Behind them, a blood moon.
Jacket art by Miranda Meeks; Cover Design by Dana Li.

Wicked Fox, Kat  Cho (Book 1 of 2, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019, hardbound).

420 pages. At the time of this review (12/3/2019), the book holds a 4.3-star review on Amazon with 81 reviews.

Genre: Young Adult

Book Obtained By: borrowed from Westerville Public Library after I saw blurb somewhere. When I visited the library the week they set up for “Wizards and Wands” (Harry Potter themed event), I scanned the YA new titles and immediately grabbed it. Glad I did!

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 5 Godiva Chocolates (sinfully good)

Spoiler-Free Review

Do you love YoungAdult books with heart, fantastic characters, some romance, and the ability to make you weep periodically for characters’ burdens, their decisions, their family? Then this book is for you. It’s a wonderful young adult fantasy, the debut by Kat Cho. She uses a Korean folk tale about gumiho (9-tailed foxes) as the base for her original work. The story is set largely in modern-day Seoul, Korea. It’s told from two points of view:  Miyoung, the teenage female gumiho; and Jihoon, the boy she saves from a dokkaebi (goblin). Both have complete arcs.

Cho introduces us to this richly built world of Korean culture, from school to food to family. Whether it’s a mother, or a halmeoni (grandmother), or a friend, each character Cho introduces plays a role. The plot and subplots weave deftly together for a fast read. I never skimmed.

Miyoung must decide what path she’ll walk, for she survives by stealing the life force of men. Even though she chooses evil ones, she still bears the burden of gaining immortality at their expense. When she meets Jihoon, her relationship challenges the core of her mother’s teachings. Miyoung needs every bit of supernatural strength she possesses to survive the challenges Cho has in store for her.

Likewise, Jihoon must decide who he wants to be. Until Miyoung crashes into his life, he has goofed off at school but worked hard at the family’s restaurant. His fractured family means scars he has to address. The richness of his school life introduces us to his closest friends as well as enemies.

The book alternates between Miyoung’s and Jihoon’s points of view. Also mixed in, Cho has crafted gumiho folk tales that illuminate what gumiho have endured in Korea’s history. They add a wonderful depth to the story.

The lyrical prose drew me in, beautiful without outweighing the story. Cho paints this world through her character’s eyes, their attitudes, their hopes and fears. It’s always clear who’s telling the story.  The italicized snippets call out the folk tale, told with a different voice. They build the world wonderfully.  Take this snippet of a folk tale:

“NOT ALL PREDATORS are monsters. But if you beat them enough, they’ll bite.

This was a lesson learned by a small village in the late nineteenth century.

Empress Myeongseong, known as Queen Min, sought to bring modernization to Joseon.

During that time lived a gumiho. She chose to reside in a small town that climbed one of the craggy mountains scattered across the country. Though most gumiho lived a nomadic life, she’d fallen in love with her isolated village and the people in it.”

You might want to skip the epilogue. It’s the setup for book two, and the longer road Miyoung and Jihoon (and hopefully other characters I loved) face. Book two’s release is scheduled for summer 2020.

This book is everything that is wonderful about #ownvoices, #diversity. I hope you’ll give it a read.

The Author

Follow Cho at her website.

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