Title: Wicked Fox
Author: Kat Cho
Series: Gumiho (#1)
Published: GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (June 25, 2019)
Pages: 429 (Hardcover)
Wicked Fox is a fast-paced #ownvoices YA urban fantasy novel based on Korean Mythology. And that cover? Gorgeous.
“Gu Miyoung’s relationship with the moon was complicated, as are most relationships centered around power.”
Set in modern day Seoul, Wicked Fox is the story of Gu Miyoung an 18 year old half-gumiho, a mythical nine-tailed fox who devours the energy of men to live (which is a whole mood, tbh.) Miyoung is raised by her mother Yena, an ancient gumiho, who is cold, distant, and constantly reminds Miyoung how horrible and worthless humans are. So Miyoung grows up isolated and friendless. While Yena has no problem killing humans to maintain her immortality, Miyoung longs for a normal life and struggles with the idea of being a monster who lives only while others die. She attempts to assuage this guilt by only feeding on “bad” men who she tracks down with the help of a young shaman.
“Foolish man didn’t know beauty was the best camouflage for a monster.”
Miyoung survives by never revealing her true nature to anyone. But, one night after feeding on the full moon, Miyoung makes the rash decision to save Jihoon from the goblin attacking him. In the process Miyoung looses her fox bead; her gumiho soul.
Jihoon grew up hearing stories of the gumiho from his grandmother, so he recognizes Miyoung for what she is when he sees her nine tails. When they realize the next day that they are to be classmates, Miyoung and Jihoon form a friendship of sorts and Miyoung starts to consider that maybe her life of detached indifference isn’t the only way to live. Meanwhile, Miyoung attempts to reunite with her bead with disastrous consequences. Soon Miyoung is faced with the choice of her immortality or Jihoon’s life.
“It’s not smart for a person to go looking for trouble among things he doesn’t understand, he reminded himself. But it seemed he wasn’t that smart.”
The Korean culture and mythology are expertly interwoven with the modern day story, and the history of the gumiho adds a deeper understanding to certain character’s motivations and the mysoginistic nature of the gumiho myth. There are definite themes of loneliness, parental abandonment/neglect, and finding your place in the world. Ultimately, this is a story about love and sacrifice and the dealing with the consequences of our choices.
“She didn’t want to play this game that already made her heart ache, but she gave in because that was his power. He made her want to hope.”
This story is definitely dramatic, and there is some instalove happening. But, if you lean into it and embrace those parts of the story, you will find yourself completely emersed in the world, and rooting for these characters to succeed. Jihoon’s relationship with his grandmother is so heartwarming and lovely, and the unlikely friendship between one of Jihoon’s friends and a snarky demon was pure delight. The plot kept me guessing until the very end, and I can’t wait to pick up the sequel.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of Kdramas, but anybody who loves a good angsty romance, dramatic twists and turns, and #ownvoices fantasy stories should definitely pick this up.
Trigger Warnings: graphic violence, descriptions of seizures, parental abuse/neglect/abandonment, death of a loved one