3 out of 4 stars
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The Fox is a historical fiction by M.N.J. Butler. The main character Leotychides tells the story of his life, the difficulties he encounters, and the choices he has to make. An awful secret concerning his origin puts its mark on his destiny. He feels neglected by his father, and his relationship with his mother is quite complicated. One of the most crucial events in Leotychides’s life is when he joins the Spartan training academy. There he finds true friends and gains physical and spiritual strength.
The novel presents not only the glorious but also the appalling face of the war. Some of Leotychides’s closest friends lose their lives on the battlefield. The scenes that depict the loyalty of the Spartans to each other are simply amazing. These brave men are ready to risk their own lives to save their comrades. In contrast to the bravery on the battlefield, the novel also gives a precise picture of the intrigues which take place at the court. Personal interests turn out to be more important than the future of Sparta.
The Fox gives a very precise picture of the Spartan traditions. The Spartan’s society is depicted as a very democratic one. Issues like homosexuality are not accepted as something extraordinary. Boys and girls are not ashamed of their nakedness.
The scenes depicting the development of the main character are my favorite parts of the novel. Leotychides is loyal, brave, honest, and noble. He is ready to protect his friends and to keep the peace in Sparta. He respects the laws even when they are used against him.
However, there are some things about the book I did not like. There are too many characters, and I find it difficult to follow their roles in the novel. A big part of the book simply lacks action.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars because I expected that the novel would be a more grabbing reading. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite boring at times, and it took me really much time to read it. This novel, however, is a suitable reading for people who are interested in the Ancient world. They may find a lot of peculiar facts concerning Spartan life and traditions. On the other hand, this book is not an appropriate choice for people who love action-packed stories.
The Fox is, as a whole, professionally edited and I noticed just a few minor typos which are not a problem for the understanding of the text.
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