Middle Grade Reviews

Blog Tour: Guest post from Claire Fayers, author of Storm Hound.

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Blog Tour: Guest post from Claire Fayers, author of Storm Hound.

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Storm Hound, a middle grade adventure about a storm dog who falls to earth and meets a girl in Wales.

What is a storm hound? To answer that, you’ll have to look to mythology, and to Claire Fayers. Her understanding of the relationship between place, mythology and adventure is one of the things which brings the book to life.

I was delighted to be offered a guest post from Clarie, and to hear more about the mythology which fed into her story. Thank you to Claire for your time. 


The Missing Mountain Top

“What is geography, after all?” said Professor Nuffield. “It’s the study of the land, and you can’t begin to understand a land and its people until you know something of their legends.”

Wales is a land of legends, and the Black Mountains around Abergavenny have more than their fair share. A group of red sandstone hills, wrapped around in green
heather, just the name conjures up castles, magic and ancient battles. I spent many pleasant hours walking in the mountains when I was researching Storm Hound. One of my favourite walks is to the top of Skirrid Fawr. It’s quite a low mountain and you’ll spot its distinctive shape straight away. The long peak has a dip in the middle as if a large part has been scooped out.

The mountain’s name comes from the Welsh ‘Ysgryd’ which means split. The most
likely explanation for the missing piece at the top is a landslip in the Ice Age, which
formed Ysgryd Fawr (big Skirrid) and the nearby hill Ysgryd Fach (little Skirrid). But the most likely explanation is not the most interesting and the inhabitants of the Black Mountains have come up with many more exciting tales.


The Crucifixion
The first story says that the mountain split in sympathy at the exact moment of Christ’s death. Because of this, Skirrid is also known as the Holy Mountain, and people used to take handfuls of the soil to scatter on crops, houses and churches for good luck.
There was a church on the mountain peak – St Michael’s Chapel. You can still see
the ruins if you climb up.


The Devil and St Michael
Welsh folklore is cluttered with tales of people outwitting the Devil. In this story, the
Devil tried to tempt the archangel Michael. When, inevitably, he failed (because who
in their right mind would try to tempt an archangel), the Devil stamped in rage on the
mountain and broke it.


The Devil and Jack O’Kent
There’s a large flat stone on the top of Skirrid, where the Devil played cards with a
local giant known as Jack O’Kent.

Once, the two of them got into an argument about which mountain was higher – the nearby Sugarloaf, or the Malvern Hills across the border in England. It turned out to be the Sugarloaf and the Devil, losing his temper yet again, scooped an apron full of earth from the top of Skirrid, meaning to dump it on the Malverns to make them taller. (The Devil, it seems, is a very bad loser.) But his apron broke and the earth and formed the little Skirrid hill.

Because the Devil never gives up in these tales, he later challenged Jack that he
couldn’t jump from the top of Skirrid to the Sugarloaf. Jack succeeded, and left a
giant footprint in the top of Skirrid.


Skirrid Ghosts

Finally, while you’re visiting the mountains, you should also visit Skirrid Mountain Inn,
which is said to be the most haunted building in Wales, and probably the whole of the
UK. Maybe even the most haunted place in the world given the number of ghosts
who are queuing up to frighten people.
I have to admit, I’ve never seen any ghosts, but you never know what you might find
with an open mind and a dash of imagination.


Thanks to Karen Bultiauw for arranging this opportunity.

blog tour

Blog Tour: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa



Blog Tour: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow Of The Fox is one of my favourite YA reads this year, and it is your new YA fantasy addiction. Set in a world of demons and tree-spirits, ghosts and shapeshifters, it follows a girl on her quest to prevent a terrible power from falling into the wrong hands. 

I was delighted to be invited on to the blog tour and I particularly wanted to hear how Japanese mythology had shaped the book. My friend Christina has lived and worked in Japan and knows the language and culture well. When I visited her in October, she introduced me to a whole landscape which I had never known before. Shadow Of The Fox took me further into this landscape and made me hungry for more fantasy inspired by world mythology. 

A big thank-you to Julie Kagawa for taking the time to tell us how mythology shaped your story. birdbreak

About Shadow Of The Fox and Japanese mythology – Julie Kagawa. 

Shadow of the fox’s main protagonist is Yumeko, a girl who is also half-kitsune.  Kitsune are the magical, shapeshifting foxes of Japanese legend, and one of their most beloved creatures of myth.  Kitsune appear everywhere in Japan: in anime and manga, folktales, toys and video games, even in food.  Kitsune udon (noodles) and Inari zushi (tofu sushi) are tied to foxes, as both have a sweet fried tofu pouch that is said to be a kitsune’s favorite food.  Fox statues can be found at Japanese shrines, particularly the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, as kitsune are also messengers of Inari, the god of rice.    

In Shadow of the Fox, Yumeko struggles with the two sides of herself.  She wants to be a good human, but she is also mischievous and loves playing pranks due to her kitsune nature.  Having lived in an isolated temple all her life, she is very innocent and naive to the world, but she has a fox’s intelligence and learns quickly.  Which will come in handy when she flees her home and runs into all manner of Japanese monsters and yokai.  Yumeko isn’t a warrior, but she is kitsune, and will have to use all of her cunning, magic and fox talents if she wants to survive.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

Review: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa. 



‘Take it, Yumenko-chan,’ Master Isao ordered, and held it out to me. ‘It must not fall into the hands of the demons. You must keep it safe at all costs.’ Another boom rattled the beams overhead, and one of the monks behind us drew in a sharp breath. Master Isao’s gaze never wavered from mine. ‘Take the scroll,’ he said again, ‘and leave this place. Run, and don’t look back.’ 

(Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa. P96.) 



Every millennium, the great Kami Dragon will rise again to the one who summons him and grant one wish. Such is the dragon’s power that the scroll containing the words needed to summon him was torn in three. The pieces are guarded because if they fell into the wrong hands, the consequences could be disastrous.

Yumenko was raised by the monks of the Silent Winds temple. There she was taught to guard her true nature, for Yuemnko is half-kitsune and her fox-like magic could lead her astray. When the temple is burned and the monks killed, Yumenko is charged with guarding their greatest treasure – the first piece of the scroll.

Kage is a demon-hunter and member of the shadow clan. He is charged with retrieving the scroll at any cost. When he meets Yumenko, the pair form an alliance, but each is hiding a secret from the other.

As darkness rises around them the pair hunt for the next piece of the scroll.


A classic quest-narrative meets a rich and detailed world, with characters so real you will feel as if you have walked alongside them. Shadow Of The Fox was like seeing anime in novel form.

The story is a duel-narrative – chapters alternate between Yumenko and Kage’s narration. The result is that we see the same world and situation through different eyes, and we’re waiting for a moment when the pair come to a joint resolution.

What I enjoyed most was the influence of Japanese mythology, in particular how Yumenko’s kitsune side means she is drawn towards nature. She’s aware of other shape-shifters. Of tree-spirits and wind witches. This world of magic and warriors hooked me in and I would love to read the myths which inspired the setting. We also learn something about Japanese culture, particularly the social customs.

There are different threats in this world. The main threat comes from a wonderful antagonist, Lady Satomi, and her connection with the demonic forces. Minor threats come from other mythological characters who serve to get in the way of the main quest. Lady Satomi is the perfect antagonist because she believes what she is doing is right and proper. She’s also decidedly creepy, the sort of baddie who comes into your head in the small hours.

Kage is a complex character. He has been taught not to bond with others or to show emotions and holds ideas about the perfect warrior, but his instinct is always to protect Yumenko. Kage is also occasionally influenced by the sword he carries – a sword with demonic powers. His storyline is about the conflict between what he has been made and his inner-nature and I hope his inner-nature wins out by the end of the trilogy.

The ancient magic and high-stakes quest make this novel unputdownable. I would love to investigate Julie Kagawa’s backlist and I look forward to continuing the series.


Thanks to Nina Douglas PR and HQ Stories for my copy of Shadow Of The Fox. Opinions my own.


If you like quest narratives, check out The Cradle Of All The Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan.