The Fox Maidens

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2024. 320p. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062685131.
Gr 7 Up–From monster to mistreated, Ha redefines our understanding of the Gumiho—the nine-tailed fox of Korean folktales—by infusing the female perspective. Kai wants nothing more than to live her life how she wants. Sadly, it’s a near impossibility in the Joseon era—a time where a society run by men relegated women to traditional roles. Those who did not fit, like this talented martial artist, were often ostracized. Still, Kai tries to meet the expectations of her supportive family, even after discovering she is a fox demon. No matter her actions, the story revolves around the inner turmoil between being herself versus her morals. However, the late-game LGBTQIA+ love link resolves the issue. Ha ties the mythical symbol of a powerful, monstrous woman to the trauma of women forced into monstrous choices. For those unfamiliar with the source material, she provides a foreword and footnotes with further explanation, as well as certain cultural and linguistic particularities. Her art fittingly takes influence from Joseon-era paintings with pops of red, yellow, and blue surrounded by muted hues, while calligraphic brushwork is seen in the digital line art.
VERDICT A worthy addition to the canon of myths retold through the female lens that will appeal to any who enjoys the monster’s backstory.

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