Eloreen reviews ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ by August Li. Published by Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner Press on July 16th, 2015 and is 340 pages.
A complimentary copy was given by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Tokyo high school student Tsukino Ayumu never wanted to stand out. He’s always been content to run at the middle of the pack and go unnoticed, and he doesn’t expect much to change when he moves to the small fishing village of Yuuyake to live with his grandfather.
In Yuuyake, Ayumu makes his first real friend in Ikehara Haruki and forges close ties with two girls, Shizuka and Chou. Together, the four friends muddle through the messy world of dating and relationships while trying to succeed in school and prepare for the world they’ll enter when it ends. Fate has other plans for them, though, and Ayumu in particular, as an invisible threat targets the village’s young people.
After being plagued by disturbing, violent dreams, Ayumu learns what the spirit world expects of him. He must learn to fight and to lead—but he’s only ever been ordinary. With the support of friends he would die to protect, Ayumu faces a destiny only he can fulfill. But others have taken an interest in Ayumu. The mysterious Fox-Hat and Neko know more about Ayumu than he knows about himself, and they lead him onto a path that might end in the destruction of them all.
I’ve not read August Li before. I have seen the covers and found them intriguing. I went into this book with no expectation other than it was an LGBT title. I didn’t know it was young adult. I didn’t know it would encompass gay, lesbian, AND bisexual themes. All I knew was that it was set in Japan and based on other reviews of Gus’s works, would be pretty good.
The novel has illustrations throughout the chapters, and that was great to get an idea of what the characters would look like, especially Fox-Hat and Neko, two spirits who directly interact with Tsukino Ayumu, the main character of this story. Except… I would have to say that ultimately Ayumu, along with his friends Ikehara Haruki, Shizuka, and Chou are all main characters, including Fox-Hat and Neko themselves. Neko is a cat spirit bound to a master and Fox-Hat, a kitsune, or fox spirit, who reports to the other fox spirits. Both are old spirits and they’ve been around the block, but they turn into humans to be near Ayumu.
I love how Gus weaves their stories together and everyone grows: Shizuka, the girl who controls everything; Chou, the artistic girl who, Haruki, the baker, and Ayumu himself who just wants to be ordinary but becomes so much more. Sexuality it looked at and explored with all the humans. Decisions and love are revealed. While not really a romance story, there is enough romance that it makes you laugh, cry, and root for a happy ending for all of them, including the selfish cat and fox spirits who learn their own lessons. I wouldn’t call it a happily ever after, nor would I stick to just happy for now. I see it as something in between.
There were parts that I skimmed through as I’m not fond of verbal train wrecks: Where you know something bad is coming and you want to hide your eyes until it gets past. The world is very detailed and I was amused that my limited Japanese (VERY limited) picked up some words used, and I knew what they were without having to go translate it. It is 340 pages, which I didn’t know going into reading it last Sunday to have it read for today’s review. I did have to have take several sittings to finish reading, but once I got through to the adventuring, it was easier to not put down. With this, I give Fox-Hat and Neko 9.5 pots of gold.
9.5/10 Pots of Gold
August (Gus) Li is a creator of fantasy worlds. When not writing, he enjoys drawing, illustration, costuming and cosplay, and making things in general. He lives near Philadelphia with two cats and too many ball-jointed dolls. He loves to travel and is trying to see as much of the world as possible. Other hobbies include reading (of course), tattoos, and playing video games.
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