2 out of 4 stars
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A riveting tale of kinship, loyalty, and betrayal, The Fox by M.N.J Butler tells the story of Leotychides, a bastard prince of Sparta. This historical tale of Leotychides gave life to ancient Sparta and its brilliant culture and politics. The symbolization of the fox represents the main character’s internal struggles: his pent-up anger, rage, and shame for the things that he experienced throughout his life. When Leotychides was a child, someone told him an allegory about a boy with a fox. This allegory, the symbolization of all his pent-up feelings had set the tone for the book. The readers will follow Leotychides’ perspective as he ventures into his duty and endures hardship as Sparta slowly collapses.
Being raised in the royal family as a prince, Leotychides always believed that he would be the next heir to the throne. However, after learning his true identity as a bastard prince, his claim to the throne was set aside. In his journey on finding the essence of being a Spartan, he chose to join the agoge to train as a soldier. During his time in the agoge, he built friendships that would last a lifetime. He became a better man by the end of his journey. Of course, not all stories are pleasant and Leotychides' story is no exemption to that. He had to overcome his internal struggles and come to terms with who he is. Leotychides cultivated his identity by accepting the fact that there is so much more in doing his duty as a Spartan citizen than having a throne.
What I liked about The Fox is that you can tell that the book was well-researched. The author gave life to Sparta through his research and vivid imagination. Unlike other books that tell stories about known Greek characters, The Fox tells the tale of an obscure Spartan character. The book goes into detail and brings out the rich Hellenic culture during those times. The tone used for the dialogue suits the timeline of the story as well. No conversation feels out of place. The dialogue between the characters seems to flow naturally. The Fox is a lengthy book and can easily bore the reader. At first, the book perked my interest. However, that interest quickly turned into boredom and confusion. There were a lot of characters with similar-sounding names and with little to no detail to remember them. It’s easy to get lost in the story, but not in a good way. Lost as in confusion as to what is happening and who’s who.
Despite being told in the first person, the book lacks the emotional connection and depth to the reader. Its monotonic storytelling almost seems as if I was reading a history lesson instead of historical biography. I also found the start of a chapter strange because of the sudden shift of perspective. The book is well-researched however, the book came out more like a history lesson than a biography.
With this, I give the book a 2 out of 4 stars rating. Those who are fans of Greek history may find this book entertaining. If you don’t like lengthy historical books, stay away from this book. Fans of war-strategies and cultures will also like this book. I also highly recommend reading the glossary of names and terms provided. The glossary will help readers understand the story well, especially those who are not familiar with the Hellenic culture and historical figures.
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