I was worried for a while in the beginning that this book was going to disappoint me. It seemed to be mostly battle scenes, and those tend to get boring for me pretty quickly when it’s just the same basic stuff happening. But, thankfully, things got more interesting, and I ended up enjoying this finale, even if I can’t say I liked it quite as much as the first two books. (Well, that is, if you’re definition of “enjoying” is “having your heart flung around like a ping-pong ball.”) Seriously though, it was a good finale, in most ways.
This book had a lot of twists and things I wasn’t expecting! I like when books surprise me like that.
Battles got more interesting as the book went on. Adding in kitsune illusion magic—and letting the reader experience the battle from the POV of a character who can’t tell what is and isn’t real—will do that. That battle between Yumeko and Tatsumi against their enemy at the end was especially intense and unpredictable. But even some of the non-magic moments were intense and caught me by surprise.
The characters were yet again great and lovable. Yumeko, bright-eyed and compassionate, wanting to do what was right. Tatsumi, hardened into an emotionless warrior by his upbringing but changed by Yumeko’s light and his love for her. Okame, disgraced and displaced but never losing his humor and quippiness, finding his drive again when he found a cause—and people—worth fighting for. Daisuke, a beautiful and kind-hearted noble with a passion for swordplay, always ready to jump into battle against a worthy opponent. Reika, the stern but caring shrine maiden. Even Suki, the kind ghost girl who no longer had a stake in the living world but wanted to help anyway.
Relationships progressed more in this book, both Daisuke and Okame’s, and Yumeko and Tatsumi’s. There were some sweet, tender moments, for both couples.
But, as I mentioned, and as I’ve seen other reviewers point out, this book seemed more about the battles than the character development. Even the scenes about relationship progression sometimes seemed manufactured and shoved into the story between battles (though there were some moments that flowed more naturally).
This book also wrapped up the whole story, tying up all the loose ends. The author has been building up an overarching story this whole time, and it was nice to finally see the whole picture, to see how all the pieces fit, and to have it all come to a climax and a conclusion. Was it a satisfactory ending though? Well, that’s debatable. In some way, yes. It all made sense, and there was nothing left hanging, but there were some things I personally felt could’ve been handled a little differently. *MAJOR SPOILERS* I respect authors willing to kill off characters when it makes sense in the story. I’m not someone who usually complains about sad books or character deaths or things not happening the way I wanted them to. But killing off four of the five main characters? All of Yumeko’s friends and her love interest? I was so sure at that point that they were going to be brought back. The whole premise of the book was about a dragon that could grant any wish, so I figured Yumeko would get the wish and use it to bring her friends back (or, since there was the whole demon problem, figure out a way to use it to bring her friends back and close the rift). But no, everyone was just dead. And I feel like all that death wasn’t actually necessary. I understand the need for her friends to make the sacrifices they did, but I feel like the wish could’ve been used to stop the demons and also get her friends back. It wouldn’t have ruined the impact of their sacrifices, and it would’ve made for a much more satisfying ending. And with Tatsumi’s and Hakaimono’s souls separating and Hakaimono leaving the sword, it was the perfect setup to free Tatsumi from his responsbilities so that he could’ve just lived his life with Yumeko and not be harassed by the Shadow Clan! Yes, Tatsumi does eventually show back up, reincarnated, but does he actually remember his whole past life and his time spent with Yumeko? Because, if not, then it doesn’t feel like a happy ending for Yumeko and Tatsumi, it feels like a happy ending for Yumeko and whoever he is in this life, which isn’t quite the same thing and doesn’t satisfy me when we didn’t get to see the new relationship they form. *END SPOILERS*
I listened to the audiobook for this (but not for the previous books) and have mixed feelings about it. As far as I can tell, Tatsumi’s POV was done by Brian Nishii, Yumeko’s was done by Joy Osmanski, and Suki’s was done by Emily Woo Zeller. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of the narration for Yumeko’s or Tatsumi’s POVs. In their POVs, dialogue wasn’t just flatly read, but it wasn’t exactly voice acted either (e.g. a character would be dying, but they’d still be speaking pretty much normally), and dialogue in Yumeko’s POV sounded somewhat robotic. Voices for other genders were not good for those POVs either, to the point of being distracting. Suki’s POV was the most natural-sounding and the best at voicing different genders and including emotion. One thing I noticed though was that it seemed like all three narrators tried to voice characters similarly. It’s just too bad they chose to make Okame sound like a cartoon portrayal of an aging smoker. Is that how he’s supposed to sound?? Because that wasn’t how I imagined his voice, and I didn’t like it. So would I recommend the audiobook? Maybe. Reading the normal way would’ve been preferable to this (unfortunately I couldn’t for health reasons), but this was still preferable over TTS. If you’re less picky, you might not have the same issues I did.
Overall, this was an action-packed finale filled with lovable characters and moments that were intense, tender, unpredictable, and unexpected. Though I had some issues with the ending, I still thought it was a good, well-written, well-woven story.
Fans of Books 1 and 2 in Julie Kagawa's Shadow of the Fox series. Anyone who likes Japanese mythology and culture, lots of supernatural creatures, lovable and quirky characters, and stories that balance the serious stuff with a lot of fun.