Reviewed by Reina Bambao

Get this at Fully Booked Online.

GUMIHO (Wicked Fox)
By Kat Cho
448 pages. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Born to a human father she has never met and a gumiho – a legendary nine-tailed fox – mother, Gu Miyoung walks the impossibly fine line between human teenager and mythical creature who meticulously researches wicked men and feeds on their energy to keep herself alive.

One night, Miyoung saves the life of a boy named Ahn Jihoon, and her yeowo gusul – a bead representing the essence of her gumiho power – falls out of her body. The loss of this little bead soon leads to staggeringly high stakes, because whoever holds a gumiho’s yeowo gusul controls the gumiho. And because without it, Miyoung is almost certain to die.

A modern-day fantasy thick with themes of family, friendship, forgiveness, and a smattering of romance, here’s what you can expect from Kat Cho’s debut novel, Gumiho!

A Kdrama, but less cheesy

Gumiho reads a bit like a more somber, less cutesy Kdrama. (I would also liken the vibe of it to Japanese anime Kyoukai No Kanata!) Unlike a Kdrama though, the characters lean less on unhealthy, overly-dramatic romance tropes and more on real, human connections.

Our main character is Gu Miyoung – an eighteen-year-old girl who’s half gumiho, half human. Our girl starts off alone and aloof – her coldness accentuating her ice queen-level beauty. Part of this is because she can’t get close to people because – as her full gumiho mother Gu Yena has drilled into her – it will endanger her secret. Part of it is because she won’t, because being around swirling human energies pulls on her instinct to hunt.

And part of it is because she truly doesn’t see herself as being worthy of having human friends…because she does feed on humans to stay alive.

Miyoung’s resolution to keep humans at arms’ length shatters when she crosses paths with Jihoon – a high school sophomore whose charms utterly disarm sweet old ladies and disapproving high school teachers alike. As their lives intertwine, Miyoung’s supernatural problems clash with Jihoon’s very real-world concerns, but also begins to convince her that maybe she might have a place in the human world after all.

A slice of life

As far as the telling of Gumiho goes, it might take you a minute to really get your teeth into it. The narration is very simple – no dramatic, quotable lines really pop out in Cho’s writing, but the no-frills prose serves the story.

Gumiho runs at an unhurried, slice-of-life pace, which fits the setting and lays the plot out very well. The book is marketed as a romance, but what I appreciated most was that Miyoung and Jihoon’s bond wasn’t founded on hot-blooded teenage attraction, but rather a patiently-developed friendship. They fight, forgive, walk away, come together, talk, tell each other hard truths, and grow. We watch their relationship unfold over several months – a departure from the breakneck action and whirlwind romances of most fantasy books – and so, their interactions and the way their personalities change in response to events feels very believable.

While Miyoung and Jihoon carry the story forward brilliantly, a supporting cast made of Jihoon’s family and friends and Miyoung’s supernatural acquaintances add texture to the main plot. Their subplots and distinct personalities weave neatly into the mix, enriching the ongoing tale and our two leads’ backstories even further.

A trip to Korea

Tiny confession: for all the Korean culture rage in the Philippines, the whole phenomenon has mostly flown over my head. (I loved Descendants of the Sun and there’s always a Kdrama playing at my family’s place, but that’s mostly it.) That’s not me being edgy – it’s just the way things have played out! So a fantasy YA novel dropping me into the heart of Seoul made me feel a bit like, oh, noooow I get it. 

Busy cities, hormone-ridden high schools, touristy landmarks, and dark forests come to life in Cho’s world populated with humans, gumiho, and other magical beings in Korean lore like shamans and goblins. Character interactions are given weight and texture when speakers switch between names, honorifics, and even insults (“Babo-ya, you never hear of an umbrella?”). Even the formatting of the book is unapologetic – Korean words are not italicised or translated, and it’s up to you to guess what they mean in context or do your homework looking them up.

In addition, the history of the gumiho is told in between chapters, omitting the need for exposition from the narration and dialogue. The snippets of full-on fantasy break up the pace nicely and doesn’t bog down the main story.

And the wickedest curveball this side of the Pacific

Lastly, I don’t want to give anything away but: OH MY GOD. THAT ENDING.

Reader experience will vary, but here’s how I felt: I was set up to believe that this was going to be a certain kind of YA book…and then I got to the end and I was just completely sideswiped. I remember frantically flipping pages back for clues, and realising Kat Cho did a beautifully subtle job of setting out little breadcrumbs throughout the plot that led to that emotional mess of a tidy conclusion.

The aforementioned slice-of-life pace might tempt some readers to put this book down halfway, but like a tense, slow-burn video clip that’s taking several seconds to get to the punch, I urge you: STAY UNTIL THE END. Stay, because the shock and satisfaction of that ending is going to be worth the wait.

(Also, did I cry? Yes. Yes, I did.)

All in all, Gumiho was an enjoyable, engrossing ride in a city filled with culture and magic, with two characters I’m very glad to have met. And as stoked as I am about that conclusion, there’s apparently a sequel on the way! I’m excited for the world to read more from Kat Cho, and for Gumiho to take its place as a distinct, proudly Asian addition to YA.

Gumiho (Wicked Fox) is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online. Get your copy here.


Here’s your chance to win a signed copy of Gumiho (Wicked Fox)! Just enter the raffle below.

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Reina is a professional content writer for lifestyle, health, and most things geek. When not at work, she reads everything from YA dystopia, to history books, to tarot cards. Support her lifelong love affair with words over at reinabambao.com!

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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23 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of K-dramas but this book’s synopsis is a hype! I really want to know what will happen to the development of the characters and the plot of the story! hope I’ll win this time. More power fully-booked!

  2. @annyeongbadaaaa

    Omg! This made me want to read the book. Thanks for the review! ❤️

  3. I can’t wait to read this!!

  4. Angel farrell

    I love Korean dramas and so does my daughter! I’d love to be able to share this with her!

  5. Jan Caparas

    Just bought a copy!

  6. Very excited to read this!

  7. This book caught my interest.I would love to explore genres other than the ones I usually read ,and this book seems to satisfy my cause.

  8. I’ve been very interested with this book the moment I’ve heard of it. I’ve watched several booktubers for their reaction and non-spoilery reviews and they all say good things about this book. I need this book. I feel that this is the book that would help me get out of my reading slump.

  9. Rica May Perez

    I’ve been waiting for this book since I’ve heard about it from Peguin Teens and various booktubers. But man, with this review, I’m definitely pumped and ready to ugly cry all over that gorgeous cover

  10. “Gumiho”/s were familiar to me ever since, when I watched a kdrama that was all about that. It was part of my childhood lol. Reading reviews like this made me curious if this book would give the same magic and could bring back my childhood feels about fantasies, well this is so interesting!

  11. Interesting review! It tickled my imagination and makes me thirst to read the entire book. This glimpse of the novel surely took me to Korea, and I couldn’t imagine how reading the entire book will surely transport me to this country.

  12. idkwhatmynameishaha

    Looks super interesting HUHUHUHU. SAD ID HAVE ENOUGH CASH TO BUY IT. NEXT PAYCHECK I WILL SURELY GET IT 🙂

  13. First saw this book on bookstagram. I’ve been wanting a copy since Bookworms Unite PH gave away ARCs on Randy Ribay’s signing event. I loved the 2010 korean tv series My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho!!

  14. This is an amazing book. I just need to have a physical copy of it. I hope I win this one.

  15. Jayda Cez Lim

    First of all, I want to read it because it reminds me of the korean drama, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho! That drama is very close to my heart and I really think that reading a book related to the creature, Gumiho, would be very interesting. Secondly, it’s a young adult book! I think it would be very enjoyable to read as I am a young adult myself. Lastly, the plot! The plot itself intrigues me. I really like how the book is a mix of fantasy and romance in which I definitely find interesting. I can’t wait to read this book!

  16. Gumiho is all over the bookstagram community (IG acc. handled by bookworms!!) and that’s one of the reasons why I want to read this so bad!! PLUS, I am a huge “anythig korean” fan so this book really got my attention. This review only made my interest for this book increase!!

  17. I seldom read books about young adult these days but this one is an exception. I’m immediately fascinated just by reading the book review. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. :))

  18. I’ve been wanting a copy of this book ever since it was released! Not only because I love the plot but I would love to read a story about another country’s myths. I hope I could win one!

  19. I was at Fullybooked MOA last Saturday and the beautiful cover caught my attention. I searched it online and read so many good reviews about this book! I hope to read this soon. ❤️

  20. Thank you for the review! I think I want to read the book. It somehow reminds me of one of the first KDramas that I have watched waaaaay back (I think the reason is the book explores a world with a gumiho. Hehe) The Kdrama was called “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.” I loved watching the series and I think it is one of the series that started me to get hooked on Kdramas.

  21. Read about this book on booktube and it’s quite interesting. Need to have a copy ASAP!

  22. anathecowgirl

    now this makes me want to read the book!

  23. I became hyped about it ever since the first announcement on Twitter. I’ve never been into Korean dramas not because of the story, but because of the tv format it came in, and the language barrier of having to rely on subtitles or bad dubbing. This media translation into an English YA novel was what made me really hyped to check it out.

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