Described as a "Little Mermaid retelling," Kitsune by Nicolette Andrews is an interesting experiment that attempts to package Japanese folklore for Western audiences. Read on for a spoiler-free review to learn why I think that it fell short on its promise of being a "Little Mermaid retelling" and whether or not it's worth a read.
Rin is a Kitsune, or at least she was until a witch’s spell turned her human. To regain her powers, Rin must make the lord’s son fall in love with her before the next full moon. She thought it would be easy, her kind have been seducing humans for centuries. But Hikaru is different. He’s handsome, intelligent, and kind –the opposite of everything she’s assumed about humans. The plan is to seduce him and get back her powers, there’s no room for love.
Hikaru never believed in the Yokai. In fact, he thought it foolish to believe in monsters. A lifetime of skepticism has guarded him from truths too painful to accept. And Rin’s mysterious arrival in his life challenges all his long held beliefs. She has bewitched him. Though he is drawn to her, he has to keep his distance. His father’s treaty depends on his marriage to another and even an innocence dalliance could ruin everything.
While they try to deny their attraction, they are drawn together as if by fate’s design. Falling in love is dangerous. Not only are they from different worlds, but their time together can only end in heartache. To break the spell Rin must betray Hikaru or be turned into a fox. But if they’re willing to risk it all, they may find a love to last lifetimes.
At face value, Kitsune seems like an interesting twist on the classic fairy tale of love and sacrifice. You've got the essential characters: a helpless, yet captivating woman who earns the prince's affections without being able to user her voice, and a prince who comes to see past her disability to love her for who she is. But these two main characters, whose love story we already know the basics of, are lackluster.Without giving too much away, I'll just say that they both seemed like very shallow characters without much development. When I think of Ariel from the animated The Little Mermaid, I can't exactly say that she's a deep character, but then again, she didn't have 276 pages of exposition to grow within. I felt so awkward reading romantic scenes because I felt that there was no chemistry- they almost seemed forcibly inserted into the novel.
There are things in this story that, rather than add to the retelling it promises on the cover of the book, take away from it. There are so many secrets and "I'm doing this because of something that happened in my past" attitudes throughout the book that I got lost very easily. I lost sight of characters' motivations and desires. In some cases, these secrets and mysterious pasts can pose a certain thrill and pace to the storytelling. In this case, it muddled the core of the story.
I appreciated the inclusion of Japanese folklore- it's so ripe with wonderful stories that aren't showcased enough in literature! There were decent introductions to the mythical creatures without throwing too many new terms in the unfamiliar reader's face.
I had incredible expectations based on the mere cover of the book, but was let down. If you're a geek for Japanese folklore like me and are hungry for some representation in fantasy, this is worth a read. If you're looking for a spine-tingling romance and love existing retellings of The Little Mermaid, skip this book or you'll be sorely disappointed.
I rate Kitsune 3/5 stars.