4 out of 4 stars
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The Fox, by M. N. J. Butler, is a historical memoir of the Spartan prince, Leotychides. The story recounts his life as a child up to his adult years, and the battles that he had fought, back in 4th century BC. The plot is described partly from the main character's point of view, which allows us to peruse through the inner world of Leotychides, while some parts of the story are narrated to us in a third person point of view, which allows us to look at the situations objectively.
Leotychides, the prince of Sparta, was born to King Agis and Queen Timaia. At the age of seven, he joins the Flock in order to become a Spartan warrior. As he had grown up believing that the King was his legitimate father, he was later disappointed to discover that he was his bastard son. The King on his death bed, finally accepts Leotychides as his son and this itself makes him the next crown King. However, when the King dies, things don't go accordingly, as the throne is passed on to his uncle Agisilaos, over technicality of the legitimacy issue. You must further read the book to find out the machinations in the palace and what happens with Leotychides as he strives to unite Sparta. His journey covers decades worth of trials in his life through war, friendship, and also, love.
The story has made such a vivid impression on me that during and after reading the book, I seem to have adopted some of the strong ideals of the main character. I believe the credit goes to the author's exquisite first-person storytelling, because that allowed me to empathize and identify with Leotychides. I have read many historical novels in the past, but this book has made the strongest impression on my mind.
I really liked the steady pace of the book. A reader’s comprehension of the story is not at all affected by the speed at which the events transpire. Another thing that I liked is that the author does not info dump in any way; the descriptions flow naturally and let's the reader form his own images without getting overwhelmed.
The only con I found in the book is the lack of paragraph breaks which makes it seem a little cramped. However, this is just a minor flaw in an otherwise flawlessly edited book, and the author should not bother about it too much as the book is easy to read regardless. I didn't notice any grammar or spelling error even though the book is over 700 pages long. It doesn't include any erotic literature, and the use of obscenities are kept to a bare minimum.
I recommend this book to readers who are fond of historically based novels, and also to young readers who want to learn more about the ancient Sparta. If you find extensive books with many pages exhausting, then this novel is not for you. But if you choose to read it anyway, I believe you will not regret choosing it.
This is one of the longest books I have read in a while, but going through the story was not a problem at all as the book is quite easy to read. For the convenience of the reader, the author has included a detailed glossary of the characters and noteworthy events of Sparta. I earnestly advise the reader to go through the glossary before and during reading the story, to get the most out of it. As a lover of history and historical novels, I must say I definitely enjoyed this book, and therefore I rate The Fox with 4 out of 4 stars.
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