3 out of 4 stars
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The beautiful book cover gives it away already: The Fox by M. N. J. Butler is a historical novel, taking place in ancient Greece, mostly in and around Sparta. The drawing of the Spartan soldier in armor against the red background is a real eye-catcher.
The main character in the book is Leotychides, born in a royal family, and expected to become king. He tells us his story, starting with him being a young boy in a flock learning all about discipline and fighting with other boys his age. He grows up, actively engaging in the many wars Sparta fought with its neighbors. He falls in love as a youth, starts a family as a grown-up, continues to go to war. He informs the readers about politics, warfare, family life, love without limits as to gender. He allows us to follow him and his life until he is an old man.
The book starts with a glossary of several pages long. While this may seem overwhelming at first, it is instrumental in understanding the different characters with often the same name or very similar names. I read an e-version of the book but would suggest a hard copy based on this glossary. With a hard copy, it is easier to flip back and forth. The book also gives a family tree, and I only missed a map locating Sparta and the other cities mentioned.
Throughout the book, I had to stay focused at all times. It is not an easy read to relax your brain. The author gives a lot of well-researched historical information on life in ancient Sparta. He combines this with the story of Leotychidas writing a memoir and describing the important people in his life. There are vivid descriptions of the multiple wars, there are many political intrigues combined with betrayal, but no surprising plot twists or hidden clues. The story is a straightforward account of a man's life.
I rate this book three out of four stars. The copy I received had plenty of errors, mostly related to quotation marks. The amazon blurb mentions that the book's e-version has been revised to edit out the issues, so I hope my copy was simply an older one, and this comment is not relevant anymore. Even without the errors, I would not give it the full four stars since it was too long for my taste. It took me quite some time to get into it, but I enjoyed the story when that finally happened. I can recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and those curious about ancient Greece.
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