Kat Cho’s 2019 debut novel Wicked Fox is the first volume in her Gumiho series.
Thanks to his irresistible charm, slacker Jihoon slides past the strict discipline enforced on other Korean teens. But charm will only take him so far. It won’t get him into a prestigious college and it certainly won’t protect him from the goblin he encounters one night.
Miyoung intervenes, killing the goblin. This may be a temporary reprieve. Miyoung isn’t the attractive young woman she seems to be. She is a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox. She survives by draining the life force from humans like Jihoon.
Miyoung has mingled in human society and has adopted some human attitudes. She is reluctant to murder just anyone. She only feeds on those she knows to be bad people. Lacking proof that Jihoon is evil, she decides to spare him.
This decision proves inconvenient. Miyoung lost her fox pearl in the fight with the goblin. Jihoon retrieved it. He has no idea what it is. That’s lucky for Miyoung, because a human who holds a fox pearl controls the nine-tailed fox to whom it belongs.
It’s also inconvenient because Miyoung attends a local high school, posing as a surly, anti-social teenaged girl. This just happens to be the school that Jihoon attends. He’s grateful to the girl who saved him from the goblin and decides that she needs friends. The aloof nine-tailed fox finds herself provided with a brand-new social circle. One she doesn’t want.
But … the new friends may come in handy. Miyoung’s past is catching up with her. She may need all the friends she can get. The problem is that she may put her circle in danger. Including Jihoon, for whom she is starting to feel an attachment both perilous and forbidden.
Do not read this book on an empty stomach. There’s are a lot of enticing food description.
A lot of teen romances would allow the leads to be unrealistically optimistic about romance. Not so Wicked Fox. Both Miyoung and Jihoon come from fractured families. Miyoung’s human father abandoned her mother; poor Jihoon was abandoned by his parents and left to the care of his doting grandmother. Neither Miyoung nor Jihoon are anxious to fall in love. But sometimes love sneaks up on one….
Miyoung and Martha Wells’ character, Murderbot, might well get along. Both are half-humans of uncertain social position. Both like to watch soap operas. Miyoung is addicted to K‑drama and expounds on common K‑drama tropes, tropes then tweaked in the service of this novel’s plot.
- Trope: lovers separated by class and wealth. Wicked Fox: he’s a charming ne’er-do-well one step up from lead singer in a garage band; she’s a soul-draining monster.
- Trope: getting the families on both sides to grudgingly tolerate each other at holiday dinners. Wicked Fox: what families?
- Trope: sudden complications impede romance. Wicked Fox: we start with complications.
Once those complications are set up, the pace of the book slows considerably.
I am not sure where Cho will take this. I will definitely give the next book a read to find out.