3 out of 4 stars
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The Fox by M.N.J. Butler is the memoir of Leotychides, a bastard of the Spartan royal line. As a jaded old man, he reveals his riveting and tragic story, starting with his life in the agoge, Sparta’s academic system. We witness him make lifelong friends and endure love, loss, and betrayal while Sparta faces political instability due to power-hungry Agisilaos.
It took me a really long time to finish this book. The ending left me walking around in a daze and even now, it is hard to put this book into words. The Fox is a very long read, but it was teeming with action and recounts so many events that the pages flew by. The atmosphere was written brilliantly and the battle scenes weren’t a bore. The focus on the many people that are affected by war was brutally honest and also heart-wrenching.
I love nothing more than an entertaining read that can teach me something. While I don’t know much about ancient Sparta, I did a lot of research while reading The Fox and I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy of it all. The history was vivid, and it was riveting reading about Spartan culture: Spartan citizens loyalty toward the state and toward each other; their views on currency and riches; their laws and views on Kings being for the people, and their openness to homosexuality and the education of women. They were a lot more progressive than the other Greek city-states. That, coupled with the captivating story, had me rooting for Sparta all the way through.
The friendships that were built throughout The Fox has to be my favourite part of this read. Leotychides joins a flock at the age of seven and the bonds he forges there last for years. Their loyalty to each other and their people was beautiful. It was a great change of pace from the many other historical fiction reads that are more hung up on facts instead of the lives that were lived.
There was a lot packed into this book and the simple writing was able to convey the scenes with clarity, vivid colour and brought to life the ancient world of Sparta brilliantly. The Fox did look professionally edited but there was one anomaly. There was a multitude of missing quotation marks that made it a bit difficult to distinguish between speech and thought.
I rate The Fox by M.N.J. Butler 3 out of 4 stars, deducting one star for the missed quotation marks. That being said, I still highly recommend this book. The Fox deserves a full rating, and it physically hurts me having to take away that one star. I would recommend this to any fans of historical fiction or anyone looking for something gripping to read.
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