Gumiho Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Putnam, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Gumihos are creatures of Korean folklore, nine-tailed foxes who can transform into beautiful women who seduce men and eat their liver in order to survive. Gu Miyoung is a gumiho hiding in plain sight, a school student most of the time but every full moon she hunts wicked men to feed. But during one full moon, she saves a boy from a dokkaebi, a goblin. During the struggle, her fox bead, her soul is knocked out and the boy Jihoon picks it up. From then on, Miyoung and Jihoon are connected. She refuses to feed because of the potential impact to Jihoon, accepting it will cause her death, not realising that with every day she weakens, so does he. Can Miyoung find a way to break their connection before it kills them both or they both destined to die?
This book gripped me from the start because of its Eastern influences. The differences between Western and Eastern culture, however subtle make for a refreshing read It is split into three voices, Miyoung, Jihoon, and a narrator telling us the legend of a gumiho who trusted people with her identity and was punished for it. The three strands weave together to show us the blossoming friendship between Miyoung and Jihoon, but also their potential outcome if others less accepting than Jihoon find out who she is.
For a book labelled as a fantasy romance is quite light on the romance, focusing less on the rush of attraction and touching, and more on the parts that build lasting foundations. While both Jihoon and Miyoung are attracted to one another, it comes across in the little things they do for one another, such as the constant swapping of an umbrella to make sure the other doesn’t get wet, where their affection is played out. This worked for me because I was left with a sense that whatever grew between Miyoung and Jihoon it was based on more than the rush of first love or their shared experiences.
Both Miyoung and Jihoon are strong characters, neither of them is the victim even when circumstances would make them so. When both are at their lowest, they find a reason to keep going. There is little morose navel-gazing which I appreciated.
At times touching and at others filled with indescribable grief, Gumiho is a book about family and the love and obligation that tie families together. While Miyoung and her mother’s cold relationship is in contrast to Jihoon’s loving one with his halmeoni, his grandmother, but the motivations at the heart of each is the same. Although Gumiho technically falls into the young adult category, anyone who enjoys paranormal romance will love this, regardless of their age.