The Fox Maidens : A Librarian’s Perspective Review

The Fox Maidens by Robin Ha is a gorgeous story set in 16th Century Korea, under the Joseon Dynasty. The illustrations are gorgeous. For me, the story starts off fantastic but fizzles out in the middle and ending.

Graphic Fiction
The Fox Maidens

Author: Robin Ha

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, mythology, graphic fiction

Setting: 16th Century Korea; during the Joseon dynasty

Recommended for: Grades 8+

Themes: nine-tailed foxes, Gumiho, demons, destiny, family secrets, traditional female roles, sexism, warriors, menstruation, LGBT+, murder

Protagonist: female, around puberty age, Korean, queer

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 320

See it on Amazon


Kai Song dreams of being a warrior. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her beloved father, the commander of the Royal Legion. But while her father believes in Kai and trains her in martial arts, their society isn’t ready for a girl warrior.

Still, Kai is determined. But she is plagued by rumors that she is the granddaughter of Gumiho, the infamous nine-tailed fox demon who was killed by her father years before.

Everything comes crashing down the day Kai learns the deadly secret about her mother’s past. Now she must come to terms with the truth about her identity and take her destiny into her own hands. As Kai desperately searches for a way to escape her fate, she comes to find compassion, and even love, in the most unexpected places.


I didn’t love or hate The Fox Maidens. I think I just expected to like it more than I did.


The illustrations are gorgeous! I love the red and blue-green color palatte, as well as the abundance of action scenes.

The 16th Century Korea (Joseon Dynasty) setting is unique. I would love to read more books with this setting and to learn more about it. What little I know about Korean history comes from books like Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Sungju Lee’s Every Falling Star. Ever since I lived in China, I have really loved reading books set in Asian countries.

I love the worldbuilding around the mythological story of Gumiho. Author/illustrator Robin Ha explains at the beginning of the story that Gumiho could be sympathetic or evil in Korean mythology, depending on the story. I liked that I didn’t know if this Gumiho in the story was good or bad. The ambiguity made me wonder who was bad – Gumiho or the men trying to kill her.

I also love the ambiguity of Gumiho and Kai’s killing of men. Gumiho explains that Kai has to kill men and eat their liver – every month – in order to live in human form. Kai says she cannot kill anyone, so Gumiho tells her to look for bad men.

In this case, that means men who drink excessively and sexually harass women. This is a great discussion for students – do these men “deserve” to die? Does it make it okay to kill them if they are harassing women? It’s an interesting theme that I also saw (and disliked) in Elana Arnold’s Red Hood.


There is insta-love that comes in near the end. I am never a fan of insta-love, and this particular insta-love seems to come out of nowhere. Kai and the love interest barely know anything about each other, and BAM! Here come the I love yous.

The story meanders in the middle and end. I really loved the beginning chapters before Kai transforms into a fox. In the early chapters, it sets up life in Joseon, the caste system, and how Kai is training as a martial artist. Gender roles and social caste are very important to this part of the story as Kai is the only female training with boys her age. She is only able to do this because her father is among the elite caste and because he owns the martial arts school.

The last 2/3 of the story were just not as interesting to me. Where early-on, I thought I would love this book, I ended up with a “just okay” feeling about it.


All characters are Koreans of varying social classes. The main character, Kai, is Joongin, which is just one step below the highest class, Yangban.


Gorgeous illustrations with lots of action! Some of the action scenes are chaotic, which sometimes makes it difficult to tell exactly what’s happening. I think this is by design though. Cover is eye-catching and will help this book fly off the high school shelves.

The illustrations that start each chapter are my favorites (that first one with the pink dress is from a chapter beginning). Here are some sample illustrations:



Would adults like this book? YES! This will easily appeal to adults.

Would I buy this for my high school library? YES. I am lukewarm about the last 2/3 of the story, but the illustrations are still gorgeous, and the Korean history and mythology is unique. Plus, it’s a graphic novel – they always do well in the library.

Would I buy this for my middle school library? I would not. I think middle schoolers would probably like it, but there is some nudity that includes female breasts and buttocks. While I would buy it for my own middle schooler, I would not buy it for my middle school library. Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly recommend Grades 8+, and I agree with them.

Would I buy this for my elementary school library? Definitely not. There is violence and nudity. Not an elementary book.


Language: none

Sexuality: some F-F kissing; non-sexual female nudity that shows breasts and buttocks (things like taking a bath or Kai’s switch-back from being a fox)

Violence: many bloody scenes that involve battles; Kai murders men and eats their livers so she can live as a human; several violent deaths; beating of peasants who steal food; sexual harassment

Drugs/Alcohol: none

Other: none


Students who like The Fox Maidens might also check out Kat Cho’s Wicked Fox, also a YA fiction story about a girl who is a 9-tailed fox. I haven’t read that one, but it looks like fun!

Here are some books set in Asia that I have read and reviewed. The third one, Red Butterfly is middle grade. The other two are YA.

This is a Librarian's Perspective review of Messy Roots by Laura Gao. This is a YA graphic memoir.  This is a Librarian's Perspective Review of Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay.  This is a Librarian's Perspective Review of Red Butterfly by AL Sonnichsen.

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