A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Children of the Fox is a fantasy set in an imaginary world, but its world-building is deep and complex, inviting comparisons to our own world, its people and issues.
Strong messages of teamwork, building trust, pooling talents, and looking out for one another. Kindness and empathy often battle with a hard cynicism that's enabled the characters to survive. Callan's mentor tells him "Everyone, rich or poor, young or old, wants something. Give them the chance to grasp it, and you can lead them wherever you like," which becomes a recurring theme -- and also serves as a caution to the reader. Also "Need. Greed. And speed. These, boy, are the three pillars of a most effective gaff."
Positive Role Models
Young characters who have always had to look out for themselves and trust no one develop a strong bond. Along the way, they admit that they'd all give up crime if only they didn't have to steal and scam to survive, which is why they take on a very lucrative, very dangerous job. Callan in particular has a lot of regret about the life he's had to lead as a thief and confidence trickster since he was 6, and a lot of guilt about scamming a desperate woman with a dying child. Gambling proves a dangerous weakness for a character, whose loss at cards in the wake of an elaborate con forces him to give up a powerful tool to the thieves.
Violence & Scariness
A guild of sorcerers called the Weavers does its work by killing people and animals, imprisoning their souls in objects to enchant them. In one scene a young girl who's been killed is reunited with her stolen soul, and they both vanish. Protagonist Callan carries horrible scars on his back from the whipping he suffered as a small child when he stole an apple to survive, and the episode is revisited vividly. A character's eye is gouged out by villains. Another winds up as a burned body floating in the river. Lots of scary scenes, such as Callan and his mentor hiding from their pursuers in a basket of snakes, one of which wraps itself around Callan. A sorcerer wields cold, killing enemies by freezing them to death and shattering them. Lots of hand-to-hand and/or magical combat resulting in injury, unconsciousness, and death. In a vision, a character sees a friend taken to the guillotine and others meeting violent deaths.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the teen characters is beautiful and flirty -- the better to pick young men's pockets and cause them to lose at the gambling table.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Children of the Fox is the first book in a new series by Kevin Sands (The Blackthorn Key series), set in a fantasy world with two moons, a brooding volcano, and a cosmic conflict between followers of the Bear, who are soul-stealing conjurers, and those of the Fox, who are thieves. The story takes five orphan Fox kids, the youngest about 10 and the oldest 14, who've individually come to excel at specialized criminal skills, and take on a thieving job that will probably get them killed -- but if it doesn't, will make them rich enough to give up thieving. There's a lot of past and present violence, as Weavers (conjurers) kill their victims and use their souls in enchantments; there's lots of often mortal combat, magical and otherwise. Villains gouge out a character's eye. Narrator Callan, now 14, bears horrific scars on his back from being beaten as punishment for stealing an apple as a starving 6-year-old orphan -- which also mark him as a thief and keep him from getting honest work, so now he's a very skilled con artist. The characters are engaging and complex as their values evolve from self-preservation to brilliant teamwork and we learn more of their history. Strong messages of teamwork, loyalty, valuing everyone's skills -- and being able to adapt fast as things change and plots twist.
Is It Any Good?
Blackthorn Key series author Kevin Sands returns with a gripping fantasy that pits a band of young criminals against powerful sorcerers in an often cruel world with two moons and a looming volcano. Children of the Fox Callan, Meriel, Gareth, Foxtail, and Lachlan are complex, engaging, and conflicted as they take on a challenge that requires every bit of their talents, and working together, which none of them have ever done. Also, it will probably get them all killed. Callan, a proficient con artist, wonders from time to time if they're being played, but their options are few and the plot twists are many, keeping readers glued to the page right up to the moment that sets up Book 2.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.