3 out of 4 stars
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A story is told about a Spartan boy who stole a fox from a village close to where his flock was camping. When he was about to get caught by his trainer outside the camp, he hid the fox beneath his clothes. His teacher stopped him and asked if he'd been stealing. The boy was silent as the teacher insisted on knowing. The fox, still alive, started scratching at the boy's belly as it looked for a way to escape. The boy denied any wrongdoing. The fox scratched on. In the end, by hiding his fox, the boy died of the wounds.
The Fox by M. N. J. Butler, tells the story of Leotychides. He is the son of King Agis, but his father does not recognize him. As a boy, he is trained in the Spartan flocks, where he is taught to be a warrior. Even if his father will not recognize him, he is determined to be the very best. On his deathbed, King Agis passes him the kingship as his lawful son.
Unfortunately, the rumors surrounding his paternity are enough to see the crown go to his uncle, Agisilaos. Leo is not bitter and with his flockmates rises through the ranks of the Spartan army. It is through his eyes that we experience war and peace in Sparta. It is through his eyes that we see the gradual decline of Sparta under King Agisilaos.
For the most part, I enjoyed growing up in Sparta. The experiences in the flock, the games, the wars, the writer simply immerses the reader in all of that. I was saddened by the deaths of Agesipolis, Doreius, Kleombrotos and all those close to Leotychides. I was disappointed with the main character for allowing his fox to kill all of Sparta. I found this book to be an experience.
The punctuation of the dialogue was the only letdown I found. In some instances, knowing who is talking is not as straightforward as it should be.
I rate The Fox by M. N. J. Butler 3 out of 4 stars. I found it to be entertaining and for the most part, well-written. It was not perfect, and for that reason, couldn't get the four-star rating. I enjoyed reading the book, and so I can't rate it any lower.
I would recommend this book to the reader who appreciates historical fiction. It is based on actual history, and that makes it even more immersive and entertaining. The Fox by M. N. J. Butler is one you'll enjoy going back to.
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