4 out of 4 stars
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M.N.J.’s, The Fox, is a compelling, and thoroughly developed story, about the life of a Spartan prince, Leotychides, in the fifth century B.C.E. Butler’s historical novel is a very detailed account of ancient Sparta. The reader is transported back to those ancient times of warrior bravado, family intrigue, and bloodshed. Fans of historical fiction novels and the movie Troy will enjoy Butler’s dramatic storytelling.
The novel is told from Leotychides’ perspective while he is at the court of the Macedonian King, Philippos, and at the order of the king, he gives a written account of his life from a young boy in court, to a seasoned soldier in ancient Sparta. Leotychides has heard rumors that his father, King Agis, is not his biological father, which eliminates his ties to the Spartan throne. Leotychides finds himself in the midst of political intrigue as his father becomes gravely ill and his uncle, Agisilaos, usurps his throne and inheritance. In the age where Sparta is in decline, and the old ways are dying, Leotychides must navigate his way through politics to preserve his country and uphold traditional values.
Butler offers the reader a novel full of meticulous research and imagination. The author’s depth of historical knowledge adds to the fully fleshed-out world of ancient Sparta. Fierce warriors, epic battles, and court politics give a range of depth to the novel that is given at a timely pace. Judging from the wealth of historical background given in the novel, the author has done a great job in weaving together historical facts with his own spin on things. The author treats the traditions and culture of Sparta very carefully. The depth of detail given to the characters really propels the reader into that era.
In the beginning, the novel slowly builds up around court politics, which enhances the imaginative scenes between the various characters. The author illustrates how traditional Leotychides is regarding how Sparta should conduct itself in the political arena. His ideals contrast with the changing politics in Sparta, which leads him to encounter tough decisions. The only challenging part of the novel is that there are so many characters and different families, so it was hard to keep track of them all and how they all relate to one another.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was rich in detail and the author gave a convincing account of how life was in ancient Sparta. According to my own research, there is little known about Leotychides, so the author did an excellent job constructing a believable premise for his life. I recommend this book for those who love history, especially history about ancient Sparta. I do not recommend this book for those readers who are not willing to be invested in the history behind the characters. I found that I had to do a little research on my own, which I enjoyed, but some may not. The novel was well edited and I did not find any major grammatical errors that detracted from the enjoyability of the novel.
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