3 out of 4 stars
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The Fox by M. N. J. Butler is a story about Leotychides, a Spartiate prince and warrior. Born to Timaia, the Eurypontid Queen of Sparta, wife of King Agis II, he considers himself heir to theEurypontid throne but is considered a bastard by most in Sparta. At the age of 7, he joins the ‘flock’- a camp where young boys are trained and equipped with military and other skills, as is the custom in Sparta. Shortly after his father’s death, his uncle displaces him and siezes his throne.
What I liked most about the book, were Leotychides asides, I do not know if they were meant to be funny or not but I found most of them to be and this made me enjoy reading the book. I really loved reading about Spartiate life and customs, the dynamic of their society and their relations with their neighbours. I also liked the great and in most cases, lifelong friendship between Leotychides and his flock brothers, his strict adherence to the law and to his values and composure in the face of all the injustices he meted out to him by his uncle. The traits of patriotism and loyalty stood out strongly in him throughout the book.
I found some of the Spartiate customs quite relatable to my ‘Akan’ customs and traditions. Such as the custom of giving regard to Elders, offering up one’s seat when all places are taken in a room and an Elder enters, among others.
Also, it was refreshing to see strong female characters such as Kyniska, Queen Timaia and Gorgo in a society as Ancient as the one this book was set in. They were portrayed as wealthy and powerful, competing with men and winning races, joining rebellions and generally being such notable pillars in Spartiate society.
I was genuinely surprised that there was no judgement or shaming of Timaia for stepping out on her husband, a King for that matter. I found that quite intriguing.
I think the book was generally well put together. Except that the family tree at the beginning of the book should be structured better to make it easier to read and understand. Also, the story was a bit winding and hence challenging to read on, at times. A little more editing would make it perfect. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars
I recommend this book to anyone who loves reading historical fiction and stories about ancient
Greeks, their way of life and traditions.
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