Book Review #3: The Fox by Arlene Radasky

Title: The Fox
Author: Arlene Radasky
Available: paperback, ebook and Podiobook

I’ve known Ms. Radasky through Twitter for quite some time now. I don’t know who followed whom first, and truthfully I don’t think it matters. Ms. Radasky had asked me several times if I would be interested in reviewing her Podiobook novel The Fox but there are a few books that I enjoy (or hate less) when read, then when listened to. Where does The Fox land?

On to the review.

Synopsis:  Have you ever wondered who your ancestors were? How did they live? How did they die? Most of us do.

Genealogy is a huge business. Curiosity about our bloodlines, our past, makes us want to go back as far as possible.

But, genealogy can only go back as far as there are written records. What if you had a chance to find a connection to ancient roots? To someone who lived two thousand years ago? Proof you could touch and hold in your hand?

Aine Macrea has that chance. She is the archaeologist who is on the search for a vision.

Jahna has come to her and lead her to discoveries.

In The Fox, you will follow the lives of Jahna and Lovern, two people who lived in what is now Scotland, during the time of the invading Romans. The Romans threatened Jahna and Lovern, their clan and most importantly, the life of their child. They struggled to find a way to stop the coming invasion and in doing so, left traces of their lives.

Aine is working to rebuild her career and is led by instinct, or a vision (or is it a ghost?) to a hilltop in Scotland. (The preceding synopsis was stolen from the author’s website.)

Setting: Ms. Radasky sets The Fox in Scotland. Part of what initially attracted me to this story was my life long interest in this northern portion of the United Kingdom. Blame it on Doohan. However, in Ms. Radasky’s book, there are two Scotland’s. The present day Scotland that a few among us might know, and an ancient Scotland inhabited by druids and warriors. While I greatly enjoyed the latter, the former didn’t really gel as much for me. Without spoiling the story, much of the area is the same in both situations, separated by a time shift. That time shift somehow greatly affected the word portrait Ms. Radasky painted. At least to me. Strangely, the archaic Scotland seemed much more lifelike to me than the modern one.

Grade: B+

Plot: The synopsis above gives a glimmer of what the story is about. The two time streams do swap back and forth in being the driving current plot, until they eventually converge. Each time stream develops its own subplots and carries the readers along paths that I, at least, for one, never found very comfortable. But then again, who said life was comfortable? As I read this book I was reminded how uncomfortable listening to it had made me. Let me state here. Reading it made the uncomfortableness go away. In it’s place I found acute pain.

I enjoyed the plot line set in ancient Scotland much more than the one in current times. More about this in the recommendation.

Grade: B-

Characters: Again, there is a discrepancy between the characters in the ancient story line and the current. Jahna and Lovern had me tied into their story from the first page (ancient story line). I found Aine (current story line) to be unlikeable and quickly read through those chapters.

While this might seem harsh, let me say again, it isn’t the author’s job to make me love their characters. It is the author’s job to make me have a visceral reaction to their characters. At least that is my thought. Ms. Radasky does that. I loved Jahna and Lovern until I hated them. Aine’s character, while not affecting me as deeply, still made me angry, which is still a characteristic of decent writing.

Grade: A-

Odin’s Recommendation: Ms. Radasky did not write my favorite book when she wrote The Fox. Part of that is because she does some truly horrific things to her characters. Things that quite probably were very true to the way of life ancients in this part of the world during the time period described. I wish the entire book would have focused on the ancient civilization, and although having finished the story, I understand why there are two, I still cannot say the current timeline and the tie in interested me nearly as much. I could have/would have enjoyed it more having completely been set in the ancient world. That being said, The Fox made me angry because it made me care. If you’re interested in life and legends set in ancient Scotland, Ms. Radasky has written a book for you. Warning: (and possible spoiler) Ms. Radasky in no way rewrites history. You’ve been warned.


Comment Pages

There are 5 Comments to "Book Review #3: The Fox by Arlene Radasky"

  • I have to say, that you have echoed a few other readers who said the modern story did not capture the same feeling as the ancient story. I agree, it is different and when I wrote The Fox, I was living in the ancient world. I had to pull myself out of it to write the modern story, however, I really wanted to capture the idea of what we do as basic humans. We want to continue our bloodline, our genes into the future. Combining the stories was the best way for me to do that.
    Thank you for your wonderful review. I am honored.

  • I enjoyed this book so much I sped through it in weekend.

    I didn’t have the problems with the modern story that Odin did, but I can understand his concerns. I think that the modern story can make the main (ancient) story more relatable, and I enjoyed it as such.

    Regardless the main attraction is the ancient Celtic story. Arlene handles the setting excellently. I see the village in my mind’s eye and almost smell the fragrances of that setting. It also set the cultural background for the story in the manner any fan of history will appreciate.

    As a way to get into the Celtic mindset, I would highly recommend this … it paints the picture in a way that few history books manage. For fans of Celtic culture, they will appreciate the attention to detail without getting overly bogged down in it.

    The main character, Jahna is a wonderful example of a strong female character within a male dominated society. She is isn’t so much trying to rebel against her world, but rather she works within her culture to build a place where her talents can be expressed to a full extent. Not that there isn’t a place for rebellion, but this is a path that makes for a good story as well.

    I really liked “The Fox” and I have recommended it on several occasions.

  • Thank you Richard, for the very nice extra review. I am very glad I have gotten to know you. You promote so many many of us and I am enjoying watching your adventures into the world of writing…… :0)

    And Odin, the more I think about it, the more curious I get… Just where in the story did you begin to “hate” Lovern and Jahna?

  • I agree that the ancient part was more compelling than the modern part. I felt that the writing in The Fox was really, really good. There are several people who don’t listen to podcasts to whom I have given paper copies of books by top podcasters. Several of them liked The Fox best out of all those, due to the writing.

    I will say this – Arlene’s voice and delivery conveyed the energy of the ancient scenes perfectly. The delivery style would not have worked for say a thriller or science fiction, but it was captivating for this book. I imagine that part of the reason the ancient scenes felt more compelling is that. I have not read the paper copy beyond some skimming (which comfirmed my opinion of the writing), as I listened to the full podcast version, parts of it more than once.

    The Fox is definitely disturbing in the second half, and I think the realness of it is why. For me, that worked. The difficulty in effectively bridging modern and ancient – or doing one much better than the other – is the only criticism I would make of the book.

  • Ed, what a nice comment. I am very grateful and thank you very much. What a pat on the back. I am so glad to have met you through and our love of writing.

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