Book Cover
Title The Fox Woman
Author Kij Johnson
Cover Art Susan Seddon Boulet
Publisher Tor - 2000
First Printing Tor - 2000
Book Cover
Title Fudoki
Author Kij Johnson
Cover Art Michael Dringenberg
Publisher Tor - 2003
First Printing Tor - 2003
Category Fantasy
Warnings Explicit sex
Main Characters Yoshifuji, Shikujoki, Kistune, Kagaya-hime, Harueme
Main Elements Spirits, gods

Click to read the summaryThe Fox Woman

Click to read the summaryFudoki

The Fox woman is a beautifully written book. While it would be nearly impossible to capture fedual Japanese culture without writing in lyrical form, Johnson almost made it poetry. I've always been fascinated by the kitsune, the trickster, the shape-shifting fox-spirit, and this book did it justice. This is a tale of a fox that fell in love with a human, and using the lore of her kind, used fox magic to create a world built entirely out of illusion to seduce and then ensnare the adrift Yoshifuji. For a while the reader is convinced of the reality of the world created by Kitsune, but in the end, illusion is all it was, and her beautiful home was a den under a fence, brief moments when the magic faltered would give us glimpses to the truth of what Yoshifuji was living. You wanted them to be together, but you knew it was killing him and it couldn't continue. And then there's Shikujoki, the wife of Yoshifuji, whom at first seemed so cold and formal but deep down truly loved her husband.

Oddly, while I was completely engrossed with the start of the book, when the magic finally kicked in I found it was a bit harder to keep reading, though I got back into it towards the end.

Beware however, if unusual sexual practices make you uncomfortable (incest, homosexual, beastiality) there's a little bit of every combination in this book, each one brief, some poignant, some intentionally disturbing.

Fudoki on the other hand I didn't like as much, though again Johnson excelled at seeing the world through the eyes of another creature that does not think like a human. Though it was the "war" part of the trilogy, war entails a lot of death, and given the story is being told by a dying princess, it seemed it was covering to major points at the same time. Though the tale is nearly standalone, I would recommend reading The Fox Woman first for there is a character that crosses over into this second book. It did however have a unique style, where the cat is just an invention of the dying princess (or is she?) and we jump back and forth between the lives of the two.

In both cases, if you love Japanese culture, you must read these books. I may not want to live under such strictures, but there is a kind of beauty and cruelty in it, that it is a pleasure to imagine that world.

I was told the third book was to involve a monkey, however given that it's been nearly 15 years since Fudoki was written I'm unsure if that final installment will ever be written. But if it ever is, I will definitely be reading it.

Posted: June 2017


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