Title: The Ronin and the Fox
Author: Cornelia Grey
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 32k words
Genre: m/m Historical Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Ancient Japan, Samurai, Kitsune, Magic, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
In feudal Japan, Kaede Hajime lives as a vagabond ronin, a samurai without a lord. As he spends the night at a village’s inn, the innkeeper begs him to help stop a mischievous kitsune, a fox spirit, plaguing their village. But when he captures the spirit—in the form of a hauntingly beautiful man—Hajime learns that the kitsune has troubles of his own. The pearl that contains the fox’s soul has been stolen, leaving him a slave to the new owner, who is forcing him to attack the village. Hajime agrees to help the fox retrieve the jewel, but living with a fox spirit isn’t easy, and the budding trust between them is constantly tested. Kitsune are tricksters above all, and Hajime must decide how much of the story the fox tells him is truth. What’s worse, an old comrade of Hajime’s is in town, bringing with him the sour memories of Hajime’s time as a samurai. Hajime must find a way to locate the thief and steal back the jewel before the thief turns the kitsune’s considerable power against him.
I have come to love this author’s writing and she’s wonderful at writing stories just in this length — short stories and novellas. That is the first reason why I’ve wanted to read this story since it was published earlier this year. The biggest reason, however, is that I’ve been looking and waiting for an m/m romance about kitsune, mythological Japanese fox spirits. Look them up online if you’d like to read more about them, they’re fascinating to read about. They’re tricksters and have rather impressive magical abilities.
Hajime is a ronin, a samurai who has been cast away from his title by his lord. He now wanders trying to do good from village to village. He is prideful, sometimes to a fault which is the reason he was cast out in the first place. When he comes across a village that seems to be plagued by some sort of spirit vampire, Hajime agrees to do whatever he can to help.
He soon finds that things are not what he expected in the village, especially after his rather fortuitous meeting with a beautiful mystery man and his search for the angry fox spirit who haunts the village, stealing, tricking and bleeding the crops and people dry of their energy. But when he learns that there are greater forces at work, he must put aside his previous conceptions and search for a more creative way to save the village.
The balance between the relationship and the mystery of the evil plaguing the village was done really well. Much of the story is focused on the relationship, but they’re both cleverly interrelated because their relationship is measured by how they work together to save the kitsune’s soul and save the village. The foundation of the story is really in the characterization of the fox. His nature, which in the story is very closely tied to mythology, makes him hard to trust. If he can make illusions and manipulate Hajime’s mind then can Hajime trust his feelings for him? Is he being played? This is the real focus of the story, and I admired the fact that the pacing and development worked so hand in hand. I was completely satisfied with the outcome of the relationship and they were also sexy as hell.
There are still several stories and novellas by this author I have but have yet to read and I’m really excited to get to them. This author is really, really talented. This story was purely a pleasure to read, I didn’t feel any obligation to read it even though it was for review. I simply sped through, enjoying the story and liking the characters.
On a side note, I didn’t have the illustrated version, even though that is the one I see on the website and the page I’ve linked to. That is why I haven’t made any comments about the artwork. Recommended.