3 out of 4 stars
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When Prince Leotychides of Sparta does not make sense of what it means to be royalty, he wants to be treated like an ordinary person. Sparta has twin kings. The idea of one king seemed unrealistic hence the two kings. Leotychides’s father is not the reigning king. The Fox by M. N. J. Butler follows the story of Leotychides from his early childhood until when he is a fully matured young man.
At the age of seven, Leotychides was sent to the flock to live with other boys. War is a staple food in Sparta. As a result, boys, with slaves included, are trained for war since childhood. During the training, they are divided into three age groups: 8-12, 12-16, and 16-20. Each age group has its own specific and unique name of which they can be identified with. In this camp, they are taught through music, poetry, games and horsemanship. As the book progresses, Leotychides came to understand the status of his royalty. Funny enough everyone regarded him as an illegitimate and a bastard child.
The Fox is divided into book one, two and three where each book has chapters that divide each section. The themes include war, betrayal, bully, humour, secrets, lies and slavery. This historical book reveals why nations formed alliances and how allies stood together or betrayed each other.
I really liked the first section of this book because it includes the glossary of names and terms. And the other thing I liked the most was humour that has been sprinkled around the entire book. “Hekataios stayed two years in his mother's womb." I cannot begin to imagine how impossible it is to have such a long pregnancy.
Another example includes, “Alkibiades never had to abduct women. All he had to do was smile at them."After reading this, I believe Alkibiades must have been lucky looking at the way he is portrayed by the author.
Just like any other country, Sparta also punished her citizens for the crimes committed. In the 21st century, citizens are imprisoned for breaking the nation's rules and regulations. I related with a lot of characters like Doreius. He gave an impossible answer such as: “In Sparta the penalty for adultery was to sacrifice a bull so large it could lean over the peak of Taygetos to drink from the Eurotas." Because he was sure that there is no adultery in Sparta. I also related with Leotychides' mother. Leotychides described her as a fluent liar. Mothers usually lie a lot when they are protecting their children.
The Fox was very interesting and informative to read but if you're looking for a quick read, then, this book is not for you. Some of the characters were well developed. But the author did not do such a great job with other characters as a result, I had a hard time getting to know them better. I recommend this historical fiction to book warms who like history. And they should not mind reading a book with characters that reflect the true names of some of the historical figures. Regardless of this, some of the events are fictional. I rated The Fox 3 out of 4 stars. The story itself is long, that plus the typographical and grammatical errors slowed my reading. That is why I feel like the book does not deserve a perfect rating.
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