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The Tower and the Fox (Calatians Book 1)
novel, historical, magic school, fox, otter
Tim Susman (aka Kyell Gold)
First novel in a new series by Tim Susman
Would buy again
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was my first ever furry novel. I loved the visual descriptions of how magic was used, gathered, and limited. The explanation of how magic materialized is just very aesthetically pleasing. The overall air of the story was very enticing and the characters were for the most part lovable and relatable/believable. I steered away from furry writing for a long time, because most of what I had read felt like the fur cladded people could just be replaced with, you know, people. Making the story bland or otherwise a whimsical fan fiction. This book definitely removed that from it's plot entirely and had compelling arguments of ethics and morality towards a race of different beings. Laura's artwork is always welcome in anything as well, so it was a much added bonus to the story.
However, the book does not come without some writing hitches. Not sure it was his first book or not, but even so, it was a very compelling read. The following is more of a critique than a review, take it with a grain of salt as I'm not an avid novel reader, but do have a fondness for stories, movies, and writing, but I assure you the intentions are well placed: Tim has a bad habit changing character names while they are speaking (with other somewhat confusing speech composition and structure). E.g., the main character is Kip Penfold. His given name is Phillip Penfold. He is referred to as Kip, Phillip, Penfold, the fox, and any combination of surname and given name respectively. It was very confusing when he was around his family for obvious reasons. Another character is Victor Adamson and the same goes for that character as well ad nauseum.
The antagonist, though repeatedly called dim and smelly, somehow has an omniscient knowledge of where Kip is at all times to torment him every time he is alone or outside, which was left unexplained. With little other interactions than a beating and name calling. I did like how Tim made that character truly hateable. You really love to hate him. The setting is a bit confusing(and kinda bland, but I don't care much for this time period in American history), since I'm not a historian and real world events are being described rather than stated with a date. However, this is more of a reader failure since Google could have fixed that easily for me earlier on. The female supporting character was both a blessing and a bane as she was a great vox populi for women's suffrage of that time, but she could be very predictable and sometimes grating. Despite that, I wish she had more spotlight, because she was a wonderful character. The Irishman was also an absolutely brilliant character. Though he raised the question of how he was so eloquent of a speaker despite him being very under educated. He had "the gift of gab", but it needed to be fleshed out more. He also forgot how to be Irish sometimes with his speech pattern moving away from his amazingly described accent. I still think he was the best character though due to his eloquence.
There are heavy-handed religious (Christian) overtones that I was not sure were an artistic liberty since the church in this time was very strong/prevalent or if placed there purposefully because Tim is overtly religious. This came off as ostentatious more than anything, because it can feel like Tim is pushing an agenda rather than the characters being the characters. I'm not sure of his stance, but it's best practices to leave politics and religion out of fiction writings-- humor excluded.
The book had an odd pacing, but it began to flow once you understood Tim's vision. It cuts back to flashbacks in a way I had not seen before, but honestly it would be welcomed to see elsewhere. The racial prejudice overtone can sometimes be a bit overwhelming at times, but I still feel it was necessary to show how bad the character is struggling against the misfortune of his birth.
He paints a world rife with indecision, struggle, and mystery. These elements are what magic you to keep reading to see how Kip will rise or fall to the occasion. It was a surprisingly fantastic read and worth a physical and digital copy buy. I'm very excited to read the next book, as it's already pre-ordered, and look forward to seeing more. I actually cannot recommend it enough to the furry fantasy novel reader... Or non-fur. It's an easy book to enjoy.