Title: Vicious Spirits
Author: Kat Cho
Release date: August 18th 2020
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Star rating: ★★★★
Disclaimer: I received an advanced finished copy of this book for free. This does not influence my review, which is honest and spoiler-free. Thank you to Sam at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy!
Summary (Taken from Goodreads)
New romance and dangers abound in this companion to the crowd-pleasing Wicked Fox.
As Vicious Spirits begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are picking up the pieces of their broken lives following the deaths of Miyoung’s mother, Yena, and Jihoon’s grandmother. With the support of their friend Somin, and their frenemy, Junu, they might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker and sicker by the day and her friends don’t know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let’s be honest, Junu isn’t known for his “generosity.” Meanwhile, the events at the end of Wicked Fox have upended the forces that govern life and death and there are supernatural entities lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to right their world.
At first I was confused as to why Vicious Spirits was being marketed as a companion novel and a sequel to Wicked Fox, but it didn’t take me long to realise both why this was, and that it was something I want to see more of with series. Vicious Spirits carries on the story introduced to readers in Wicked Fox, and Miyoung and Jihoon are certainly present here, but they share page-time with two new POV characters I certainly didn’t expect to like as much as I did: Somin and Junu, whose story helps to add another layer of dimension to the world Cho writes in.
Introduced as side characters in the first book, Somin and Junu find their story – and their complicated and back-and-forth relationship – a focal point of this book. Somin is a feisty, human girl who would do anything for those she loves, and Junu is a dokkaebi with a bit too much charisma and a tragic past – the necessary ingredients, it seems, for a ‘bookish boyfriend’ in 2020. The character growth for Somin and Junu felt natural, and the eventual development of their relationship – and the personal growth that came with it – was one of my favourite aspects of the book.
Fans of Miyoung and Jihoon from the first book should not hesitate to read this book, however, as the pair are still present in the story, following the events at the end of Wicked Fox, where Miyoung continues to be haunted by her recently-deceased mother, Yena, and the disappearance of her fox bead. They certainly no longer take centre stage, and so have less page-time, but still have scenes together which many readers will enjoy.
I found the plot of Vicious Spirits resonated with me more than that of Wicked Fox, dealing with heavy themes of grief and loss, compared to the more light-hearted tone of its predecessor. Through the lens of a romantic, fun (if not dangerous, at times) adventure, Cho explores the aftermath of death, the regrets many of us are left to deal with and the often-struggle to find the ability to move on. For me, at least, this book was extremely poignant, and I can’t help but think this was a story I needed at this particular time. Steering away from its themes though, Kat Cho was sure to implement many a plot twist, both big and small, throughout the novel, and if readers cannot connect to its themes in the way that I did, then they should at least delight in the fact that Vicious Spirits offers them the fun escapism that Cho’s debut did.
TL;DR: Vicious Spirits is a worthy successor to Wicked Fox, and cements Cho as one of publishing’s more under-appreciated and under-hyped writers with her ability to delicately weave heavy themes into a story which some would likely write off as ‘just another fantasy romance book’. Rather, Cho spins a beautiful tale of love and loss against a background of Korean folklore that I would urge anyone to read.