Thursday, 20 June 2019

Review: Gumiho: Wicked Fox

Gumiho: Wicked Fox 
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

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 had some really high expectations for this book, it's been on my anticipated reads list since last year and I kind of...wanted to start reading it but I was also kind of procrastinating from it because I was so excited for it, if that makes sense? I spent a lot of time staring at it and hesitantly going to pick it up and then putting it back down. I've been disappointed by a lot of my anticipated reads this year so I guess I was nervous? However, I really didn't need to be! 

Once I eventually cracked this I was immediately dropped in to night time Seoul from the first page and getting to know Miyoung, what she is, what she can do and what the rules are as well as meeting her ally in the form of a shaman. In short...I was living. I was basically engrossed from page one and you would have to pry this book from my hands to get me to sleep. I have never been more devastated that I couldn't binge read this in one go because believe me I would have but life and responsibilities rudely got in my way. 

Trust me though, your attention will be well and truly grabbed right from the first page, let alone the first chapter and you'll be ready to dive in to this world, get to know Miyoung better and settle down for an adventure. 

Miyoung is such a badass, but she's also very solitary and lowkey hostile to anyone that tries to get close to her, mostly because of how her mother raised her but she's not easily trusting. I liked Miyoung because she's so morally grey. She has to kill men to survive but she only goes for bad men and she does it to survive. She makes it painless for them when she really doesn't have to and she doesn't relish doing it either. I thought her struggle with wanting to survive but not wanting to hurt people just so she can was interesting to explore as we saw more of that struggle come about in the second half of the book although it broke my heart slightly that she didn't think her life was worth more than anyone else's. The thing is you can root for Miyoung, understand her and empathise with her, and we go on a journey with her in this book from doing what she has to do and feeling bad about trying to be better towards the end as she opens up to people more. I just found her an excellent main character, to be honest. 

Her helping hand in tracking down the bad men is Nara, she's a shaman who has the Sight so she can see ghosts. I'm going to be honest. I was lowkey suspicious of her throughout the entire book until I was highkey suspicious of her and then she just.....let's just say I was disappointed but not surprised. I was quite excited by the seeing ghosts element, it has to be said! 

On the male lead front we have Jihoon who thinks there's no point living if you aren't having fun and uses his dimples and good looks to get out of pretty much anything. However, there's more to him than the affable guy with the silver tongue that we first meet. It all hides the deep hurt he has from his past and his vulnerabilities and he made for another interesting main character with the struggles he goes through as well, but with Jihoon we explore abandonment a lot and I was really sympathetic to him and fully on his side and I thought his story arc with his mother, while not being 100% resolved and sunshine and rainbows because it's going to take time...did end quite beautifully. The thing is Jihoon, despite all that, is all positive and has everyones backs the rest of the time and I admired him for it but I liked that he also had his vulnerabilities to work through and that they're shown. My heart broke for him in the second part of the book it has to be said, he had so much to deal with and struggle through and he came out the other side and I guess what I'm trying to say is...he has a lot of different sides to him that we explore! 

Honestly both Jihoon and Miyoung deal with a lot and give us different sides of themselves to explore, but they both have different vulnerabilities to work through and I just enjoyed seeing them overcome them, and get through it. They're both relatable and they're characters you can empathise with and support. I really enjoyed the romance between the two of them, Miyoung's going from hate to love while Jihoon is going from friends to lovers, and on both fronts it felt very natural, and it was subtle along with totally cute. It built up slowly, like I said, Miyoung letting him in, becoming closer, bonding a little bit and becoming friends and then finally developing in to more and I loved that. It fit the plot and the pace of the story so well and didn't detract from everything else going on, but I also loved that they could lean on each other when it came to their struggles, which was only possible because the romance was timed so perfectly with their character development! 

Alongside our main cast, the supporting characters are equally as brilliant! We've got Somin, she was an awesome little badass! Changwan was cute too and I gotta say...I loved Junu as well. He's the kind of little sod character that I love as much as I want to slap them up the side of the head but I lived for him bonding with Miyoung and becoming a friend...sort of. 

The plot is just fantastic. Right from the first chapter I was hooked and also having the time of my life. We've got a hunt, we've got mythology and while we get a nice amount of information and background initially....I wanted more and was so ready to be hit with it all. Things were going so well with trying to solve Miyoung's problem, and watching her get close to Jihoon and let him in...but also Somin and Changwan too and I was screeching when she became friends with all of them because it was her first time having friends and people to have her back, so of course.....angst time. I feel like the plot was nicely laid out, with starting things off, introducing the characters and the relationship dynamics, having characters bonding and the character development while dropping little hints of the past among other things along combined with action and a fast pace, before things took a turn that I wasn't expecting. It was a surprise, and it was so nicely timed with the two MC's character development and romance development as it kind of upset the groove we'd settled in to with them and took the story in another interesting direction. 

The pace really ramps up towards the end with twist after twist, and then everything wraps up nicely and alls well that ends well. No. Think again. We get hit with a super creepy epilogue that promises more adventures with Miyoung and Jihoon, just when you thought it was all over! 

I completely loved the world building, Cho has Seoul rising up around you regardless of whether you've ever been there or watched a drama or a movie set there. She has you walking its streets with Miyoung so authentically you can visualise it in your minds eye and practically smell the city...specifically the food *stomach rumble*. Cho makes sure you're right there with the characters, no matter what, daily school life? Hanging at the restaurant? Wandering Seoul? You are there. I loved her writing, you get a lot in the way of description and background and so on without an excess of words so the prose is snappy and doesn't get bogged down while still creating a clear image. 

This book is own voices and Cho incorporates her heritage and culture in to this wonderfully. We have Miyoung watching dramas and real talk, she's not wrong when it comes to dramas and certain things that happen in dramas! There's also some k-drama style moments in this book that we've all come to know and love with the stuff at school, the rain ("oh look it's raining" CUE THE ANGST) and umbrellas, the good old "lost footing catch", the leads being separated and misunderstandings, and the almost kisses which literally make me screech so much in dramas let alone in this book which honestly? As I was reading, I could picture it as a K-Drama so clearly. Keep an eye out for the drama and k-pop references/easter eggs throughout too! 

Speaking of dramas I'd like to take this moment to thank them for helping to teach me Korean as I was merrily reading through this book, getting excited when I knew a Korean word and could pronounce it correctly or looking up words I didn't know in Naver Dictionary! The writing and the language used was familiar to me as a K-drama addict avid K-drama viewer, and was perfectly incorporated, so whether or not you're familiar with the language you'll be able to understand the meanings of the words used! My only word of warning for you is be prepared to get hungry reading this, not only does Cho deposit you in Seoul...she also tells you all about the food. My stomach may or may not have rumbled once or twice at a certain food description. *whines* And now I want banana milk. 

I lived for the interludes of folktales and mythology mixed in with history, otherwise known as my two biggest weaknesses. Each one is well timed, relevant to what's going on with the plot and leaves you craving more. I know a little Korean history, so I got excited for things I already knew like Hwarang and so on, but I got even more excited and intrigued by the tidbits I didn't know! If anyone can recommend me a good history or Korean mythology book let me know! 

Honestly this has been a really hard review to write because I kind of just want to mindlessly screech about this book and how awesome it is, and force everyone to read it but I need to form actual coherent words. I feel like this review really doesn't do it justice to be honest! 

Gumiho: Wicked Fox is engaging right up until the end, there's a cracking pace, it's got mythology, Shamans, history, realistic and believable characters, Gumiho, Dokkaebi (Goblins), a smidge of romance and so many twists! Not to mention the whole....blood feud, vengeance and betrayal thing! The writing, the world building, the descriptions...everything is so authentic, and Cho's writing really pulls you in to her world and makes it very, very hard to leave not least because the action and exhilaration never stop, it's excellent from start to finish. 

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