Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This Canadian gem is a great first novel in a new compelling and unique fantasy series. I'm usually not one to love urban fantasy but this is like urban meets earth magic. S.M. Beiko takes us on a journey set in frigid cold Winnipeg. She sets up the novel as if it's present day Winnipeg and her characters are all average teens or adults. That is until they aren't.
One of my favourite things about this novel is that the setting of Winnipeg (affectionately called Winter-peg by many Canadians as it is bitterly cold there in the winter) is so ingrained into the story line. You couldn't just move this story to another city or location without losing a lot of the mythological lore that Beiko has woven into it. From statues and designs in the Parliamentary building to the city's history of flooding; Beiko has used important aspects of Winnipeg to be key moments or places in her lore.
I don't adore the main character. In fact very few of the characters were standouts for me (except maybe for our lead gal's poor Aunt who is so out of the loop), but all of the were solidly written. I especially liked the inclusion of the main boy as being in a wheelchair. The challenges that come from navigating any world in a wheelchair are often lost to those who don't deal with them; but Beiko makes sure that almost nothing is convenient or easy (just like the real world) for our main boy. My cousin is bound to a chair and I thought of him a lot during this read. I made me really think about how difficult it must be to do simple things like even get up the stairs to a shop that is in a historic building (and therefore not wheelchair friendly).
There are a number of adults in this book that play side roles. Most of them were fairly typical. I'll forgive Beiko for this as it was clear she wanted to focus on our teens more than anything. However I would have liked to know more about the Uncle and the Grandmother. I'm hoping perhaps more comes to light in the second book.
Now, don't get me wrong, this book is really, really good as a whole. But the last 100 pages were stellar. Jam-packed action, conspiracies unraveled and lots of rogue magic. The best part, you'll never guess how it ends!
Obviously this is only the first book in a series and so there is a cliffhanger of an ending. That said the ending is not cheap, too quick nor does it detract from the main plot of the novel. There is a good solid foundation being set in Scion of the Fox that is likely to make the rest of this series stand-up well.
I can't tell you how much fun it is to read a book about a place you've been! Or even one that has a climate similar to your own. I am always looking for Canadian fiction set in Canada as the setting seems to change my entire perspective of some books. If this feeling is even 1% of how poorly represented minorities feel when they read books that really represent them well, then I may understand a tiny bit about why they are so desperate to read more books with characters like themselves!
I cannot wait for book 2 and I know Beiko is more or less done it as I had a passing-by conversation at my local Comic Expo (a couple months back) where she told me that for sure there is more of our lead gal in it! I was so excited I had her book (and I won't lie I was a bit giddy) that I totally flaked on bringing back my copy for her to sign the following day. Lol.
Irregardless I really recommend this unique, earth based but set in a city, fantasy story. I think you'll be surprised by it's depth and intricacies (even if you don't know much about cold weather or Winnipeg).
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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