Review: The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo

The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo

Timy reviews The Fox Wife, a standalone Historical Fiction novel by Yangsze Choo.

An eARC was received by Quercus via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Fox Wife is published on February 13, 2024.

About the Book
Series:standalone
Genre:Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher:Quercus
Date of Publishing:February 13, 2024
Trigger Warnings:death of a child (off page), violence, death, grief
Page count:400

Possible fit for The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2024 prompts:

Joker prompt that goes with anything: Now We Are Free

Anywhere Away From HereKiss My Ass
HandwrittenYou Are My Home
PsychoSummer Jam
AddictedNew Song
The MysticSay It
Queen of KingsThe Legend of Mother Swan
Accidentally in LoveThrough Glass
White FlagRoad to Joy
Sob StoryGive That Wolf a Banana
Always HalloweenKill Your Conscience
TherapyGhosts & Monsters
Low LifeChasing Stars
Book Blurb
The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo

Some people think foxes are similar to ghosts because we go around collecting qi , or life force, but nothing could be further than the truth. We are living creatures, just like you, only usually better looking . . .

Manchuria, 1908.

A young woman is found frozen in the snow. Her death is clouded by rumors of foxes involved, which are believed to lure people by transforming themselves into beautiful women and men. Bao, a detective with a reputation for sniffing out the truth, is hired to uncover the dead woman’s identity. Since childhood, Bao has been intrigued by the fox gods, yet they’ve remained tantalizingly out of reach. Until, perhaps, now.

Meanwhile, a family that owns a famous Chinese medicine shop can cure ailments, but not the curse that afflicts them―their eldest sons die before their twenty-fourth birthdays. Now the only grandson of the family is twenty-three. When a mysterious woman enters their household, their luck seems to change. Or does it? Is their new servant a simple young woman from the north or a fox spirit bent on her own revenge?

New York Times bestselling author Yangsze Choo brilliantly explores a world of mortals and spirits, humans and beasts, and their dazzling intersection. The Fox Wife is a stunning novel about a winter full of mysterious deaths, a mother seeking revenge, and old folktales that may very well be true.

Quote of the Book
Quote Background

“For all stories have an ending as well as a beginning. But a beginning is where you choose to plant your foot, and the ending is only the edge of one’s own knowledge.”

Review

I went into The Fox Wife with zero expectations. I haven’t read anything from Yangsze Choo before, though The Night Tiger is on my TBR. I was browsing on NetGalley one day when the cover caught my eyes and since it sounded up my alley, I thought why not? I fully intended to read and review it way before today, but a massive slump happened, so, yay. But, at least I’m able to review it on its release day, so at least there is that.

The Fox Wife hit my soft spot with its 400 pages, which I was able to read in a week, even though I read the majority of it over the weekend in 2 days. But partly because I wanted to finish in time, and partly because I was hooked, I finished the last 25% on a weeknight, when I usually don’t read. I also stayed up later than I intended, but who needs enough sleep to function the next day at work? Apparently not me. I’ve no regrets though.

The story is set in China in 1908, when times are turbulent, the Empire is crumbling and people rarely believe in foxes anymore – except when something bad happens, or it’s convenient to accuse someone of being possessed/bewitched by a fox. The story is told from two POVs: Snow’s and Bao’s. Snow is a fox, or rather, a creature that can take both a human and a fox form, whose kind is featured in many folktales. She is on a journey of revenge, hunting a photographer who caused the death of her child. Her POV is written in first person, we are reading her account of the events.

Bao, on the other hand, is an old man with an uncanny ability of being able to tell if someone lies. He is a widow and earns his money by investigating lost objects, people, or whatever he is hired for. His investigation starts with the frozen body of a young woman and leads him on Snow’s trail eventually. His POV is written in third person. An interesting choice, that worked for me. Snow’s account is personal, the reader feels like we are there, like we are part of the story. Bao’s POV forces us to take a step back, to be a less personal observer, and maybe a more objective one. Both get equal attention, and neither overpowers the other. But I think I liked Bao more, nonetheless.

Despite the strong presence of both MCs, The Fox Wife felt more plot-driven to me. At least, I was more interested in finding out answers and seeing what was going to happen than in the characters themselves. I never really got attached to them. I’m not quite sure why, because I can’t say they were one-dimensional. Snow goes through a range of emotions as she finally confronts her grief and what happened 2 years previously, while Bao faces his own mortality. There are quite a few side characters who make this book a pleasure to read. I especially liked Kurosaki and Snow’s old mistress. But I would have liked if there was more exploration of the relationships between the characters, because there was a lot to unpack.

I always find books with an Asian setting fascinating, and it’s not different for The Fox Wife. I enjoyed the cultural aspects and the fact that even though it was primarily set in China, there were Japanese elements as well as Mongolian. And some historical tidbits that I enjoyed learning about. We get a glimpse at rural North China and some of these people’s lives – the poverty, and the different beliefs. How views change from generation to generation and how superstitious some people can be while others refuse to believe such things as fox spirits.

Choo’s novel is easy to read and although there are some Chinese and Japanese expressions, they are always explained in a smooth way, so it never gets confusing. The plotlines are all neatly concluded, though some questions remain – but life would be boring if we got all the answers we seek. At times I found it a bit repetitive, but not so that it would get in the way of my enjoyment. I’m also nitpicking.

There is a strong mystery element to the book, although I still wouldn’t label it as such, myself. Maybe if there was more focus on the investigation(s) itself. But it works as historical fiction for sure. I think The Fox Wife is rather a tragic story about love, second chances, and the choices that we make. Our actions have consequences, be they good or bad. If you ever wondered about fox spirits and what it would be like if they walked around us, then The Fox Wife won’t disappoint.

Our Judgement
They Shall Be Remembered - 4.5 Crowns

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