Cover Image: The Fox Wife

The Fox Wife

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Member Reviews

Yangsze Choo has outdone herself with this fascinating book. It's beyond her earlier (very good) books, The Night Tiger and The Ghost Bride. In the Fox Wife the reader is introduced to two separate stories. One about a female fox called, Snow, and another, about a boy called, Bao. The characters and their adventures are so eloquently described that they are very much alive in your mind.
If you love foxes, great mysteries and good detective stories then this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

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Interesting premise and I enjoyed learning more about fox legends. I was definitely kept intrigued by the mystery of Bao's gift. The book did feel a bit slow at times and for the second half of the book I found myself more interested in Bao's storyline though previously I had been equally interested in both. Overall, it was an enjoyable and interesting read.

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✨ Review ✨ The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo; Narrated by Yangsze Choo

Thanks to Macmillan Audio, Henry Holt and Co, and #netgalley for the gifted advanced copy/ies of this book!

As soon as I read the description of this, I was hooked! A historical fiction / magical realism book based in Chinese folklore around foxes - sold!

The book alternates between POVs of Snow, a fox/woman, and Bao, a private detective who can detect lies, in 1908 Manchuria. Bao's investigating a girl who died in the door of a restaurant and Snow is on the hunt for revenge against a photographer who has done her harm. Increasingly these stories converge across the book creating a really lovely narrative.

I loved the historical setting in Manchuria and shortly in Japan in a time of great modernization and change. This sense of change mixed with folklore and the foxes' efforts at survival and how they choose to live made this such an enjoyable read. Admittedly it's long and slow in places, but this made me love it all the more.

I listened to approx 20% of this book and love that it's the author herself narrating it. I think there's a lot going on which made me prefer the text version, but the audio version is great if you can handle dual POVs.

What a gorgeous book that I'm so glad I read!

Genre: historical fiction plus magical realism & folklore
Setting: 1908 Manchuria and Japan
Reminds me of: Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger and Janie Chang's The Library of Legends
Pub Date: Feb 2024
Length: 14 hours 36 minutes

Read this if you like:
⭕️ folklore-inspired magical realism
⭕️ Chinese/Japanese historical fiction
⭕️ interaction between foxes - full of curiosity and trouble
⭕️ the merging of modernizing forces and traditional ways

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Yangsze Choo has written a wonderful tale that weaves together mythology and history with a bit of magic and takes place in Manchuria during the early 1900s. The story is told from alternating perspectives. First, we meet Ah San, a young fox posing as a human woman. She is on the search for Bektu Nikan, the person responsible for the death of her child. We also meet Bao, a detective who is investigating the mysterious death of a young woman. I loved the character of Bao and enjoyed hearing stories from his childhood and it was interesting to see how this intersected with his current case.

Choo beautifully writes this novel (as her others). It was interesting to view Chinese history, culture, and storytelling throughout this novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this great book.

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It’s 1908, Manchuria. The royal family that has governed China for two centuries is in turmoil. Society at large is no different. There is famine, bad harvests, and rumbling of revolution. Young men from the most prosperous families are going to Japan to further their studies, and sometimes plot rebellion in their native land. If there’s ever a time to believe in fox spirits and gods to turn the tide, this is it.

In the Manchurian capital there have been disappearances and strange occurrences involving young women. There are rumors that fox spirits may be involved. Who to believe? When a young woman is found dead on the doorstep of a popular restaurant, its owner asks Bao, a retired schoolteacher turned private detective, to investigate. Bao has his own fascination with fox spirits and gods, and maybe an experience or two with them, though he’s not quite sure. Bao’s investigation leads him to a photographer who may be linked to young men from prominent families in town. Coincidentally, Ah San, a young woman from the countryside, has come to the city looking for this photographer. She believes he is responsible for the death of her child, and wants to exact revenge.

Every chapter alternates in a dual narrative— Ah San’s in 1st person, and Bao’s, the detective (all-knowing narrator, 3rd person)— that coalesces in the end. Ah San, or Snow Hu, which is her real name, has astute observations about human behavior, especially male behavior. She is a very resourceful and spunky heroine. Bao is also an endearing character. Ah San and Bao give a sort of ying-yan vibe to the narrative.

The chapters end, invariably, in a cliffhanger, and one would love to keep reading the same storyline to know more, but then it’s the opposite character’s turn and by the time the narrative goes back to the earlier point, it’s hard to remember what the cliffhanger had been. In spite of this shortcoming, The Fox Wife is sumptuously atmospheric, with breezy and effortless storytelling.

Great characters and world building, elements of Chinese folklore and mythology, historical insight about the period, and an enthralling chain of mysteries with a common thread, make The Fox Wife a winner.

Thanks to the publisher for granting me access to a free digital copy via Netgalley.

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**4.5 stars**

This was my first book of Ms Choo’s I’ve read even though I own her first two. I was attracted by the mystical cover and the fact that I love foxes. This book did not disappoint! It’s a blend of historical fantasy and a mystery-detective fiction story. Each chapter rotates between the point of view of Bao, a private investigator who can sense a lie, and the mysterious female Fox in the title who’s hell bent on revenge. Why is she out for revenge? Why is Bao hired to look for her and how do their stories entwine? Read this wonderful blend of mystery and folklore to find out.

The only negative I have for the story is the pacing was a bit slow in a few areas and that’s why I’m not giving it 5 stars. But if you want a well written enchanting story then read this!

**thanks to the author and publisher for the e-arc I received in exchange for my honest review.**

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This was a cool book but the experience of reading it was exhausting. I think that has more to do with what was going on in life while reading the book. Still - one I would recommend!

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Yangsze Choo’s THE FOX WIFE has so many elements I love: historical fantasy based on Chinese mythology, mystery and murder and intrigue, romance and fate. Snow, a hulijing (or what is known as a fox spirit) is looking for revenge, tracking the man responsible for her child’s death with murderous intent. Meanwhile, Bo, an aging investigator, is sent on an adventure when he takes on a job looking into the death of a mysterious girl. Their paths, unexpectedly, lead to one another, with many surprises along the way: revolutionaries, family curses, blackmail, reunions, and of course, fox magic.

Choo’s storytelling is delightful, charming, and utterly satisfying. While THE FOX WIFE’s storylines are instigated by heavy themes, overall, the book read more lighthearted, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent in Choo’s magical world.

Thanks again Henry Holt Books for the beautiful gifted book, along with all the wonderful fox-themed goodies that came with it 🦊 I can’t wait to read Choo’s previous books now. THE FOX WIFE is already out!

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This book was so beautifully written and it was clear that Yangsze Choo knows her stuff. What I really enjoyed was the weaving of Chinese lore and myth into a mystery story.

What didn’t work for me was the pacing and that is just a not for me book. It’s a slow, slow burn and the payoff just wasn’t my favorite. I would find myself often getting confused at parts what was happening because of the flowery language. However, this is a well crafted story and I am glad I read it.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Fox Wife.

I really liked the author's first book, The Ghost Bride, so I was eager to dive into The Fox Wife.

This is a well written narrative about Snow, a fox but foremost, a mother seeking revenge for her murdered child.

Her story of vengeance is juxtaposed against Bao's story, a detective with the unusual ability to detect when someone lies, whoj has been tasked to uncover the identity of a woman found dead in a doorway.

Bao's investigation will eventually collide with Snow's and her employee, a dear friend Bao has never forgotten from his childhood.

I loved the supernatural, mystical and spiritual elements, the themes of love, loyalty, and friendship.

The early 20th century setting added to the old school vibe, how dangerous it was to be a woman, much less a single woman traveling alone during those tumultuous times of civil war and strife.

I won't lie; it took me awhile to finish this because the pacing is slow.

Stuff happens but it's not exciting and thrilling. Events unfold, people are killed, and Snow has to deal with the prejudices and violence that is inflicted upon a woman, much less someone masquerading as a servant.

I really liked Snow; her courage, her wit, determination and brute honesty about her place as a fox and a woman.

I would have liked to know Tagtaa more; she sounded intriguing despite her presence as a minor character.

I enjoyed her childhood recollection of meeting a fox for the first time and how it changed her life. Her openness and willingness to believe in the powers of the fox made her a fascinating character and I wished I knew her better.

Bao was a good man, one of the few human ones in the narrative. Honest, practical, and patient, he pursued his investigation with steadfastness, his own feelings about foxes and his dear friend tangled together.

The ending was surprisingly optimistic and happy, not what I expected, but it left me feeling positive and hopeful.

I like how well the author blends folklore and magic into her stories though the pacing is slow, I also enjoy her writing and characters.

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A slow-paced but lovely historical fiction piece, The Fox Wife, is full of East Asian folklore, customs, and traditions from the early 20th century. This book is a great read for anyone looking for more Chinese mythological stories and for historical fiction readers that like a bit of fantasy in their books.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This was incredible. Yangsze Choo has really cemented herself as a favorite author for me. I love how she weaves folklore into real world settings; she does it so seamlessly. The fox folklore was so interesting to me and I was enthralled from the first page. The reveals in the story were really beautifully done and I really grew to love each and every character that we got to know. I hope to reread this soon. This is also one of my favorite covers of the year.

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If you thought Ghost Bride was good, you've seen nothing yet. Yangsze Choo blows it out of the water. Her writing is mythical, magical, strong, and can't be beat.

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Wow! Hard to put this one down. I have very limited knowledge of Asian folklore, but this is a good story regardless. When Snow, a young fox/woman goes to find the man who killed her child she meets and stays with an older woman as a servant. This allows access to much that would be not attainable to her. Traveling to Japan, for instance, and meeting up with two other male foxes, one being her husband, along the way. Learning a bit about the revolutionary ideas against Empress Cixi and her repressive reign, and the beliefs of fox worship was also interesting. Also following Bao, a private investigator, who has the skill of telling when someone is lying or not. The story is told through Snow and also Bao's point of views. When I first started this I was not sure what I expected, but must say I got much more that I anticipated. Would highly recommend this tale of mischief, murder and mayhem.

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Yangsze Choo weaves Asian folklore into a tale of mystery and revenge during the sunset of the Qing Empire in early 20th Century Manchuria. Told in alternating perspectives, the book follows Snow, a huxian or fox spirit who is on the hunt for the man that destroyed her family and Bao an aging detective that can hear lies who is investigating a suspicious death of a courtesan. Snow is a fantastic character; her grief and desire for revenge pushes the story forward for better or worse, but she still manages to share commentary about fox spirits and humans with the reader. By contrast Bao comes across as tired and reflective of his life as he nears retirement. Snow and Bao cross paths and become intertwined when the human and spirit worlds collide. The mystery that drives the story is a bit predicable, but the highlight of this book is the ethereal quality of Choo's writing.

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A beautiful, winding, character-driven novel filled with folklore and heart

Rating: 4.5/5 ✰

The Fox Wife is a historical fantasy following the journey of Snow, known as Ah San for much of the novel, a fox spirit who set out to avenge the cruel death of her daughter. She's being pursued by Bao, a widower who became a detective after the death of his wife, both because of her suspicious connections with a case he's working on and also because she seems to have some kind of ties with fox spirits - his interest from a young age. I loved also the stories they weaved in, some true and some false, about not only the foxes but also other mystical beings like ghosts.

Even though it's a fantasy and there's a lot of folklore and bewitching going on, this is definitely a book about the human experience. The author really helps us get attached to the characters, slowly unraveling their emotions and histories, making it impossible to not want to see them happy. Everyone has their own clear voice, personality, and motivations; I really appreciated that she made these mythical figures feel like real people instead of just tropes or storybook characters. They make mistakes, change their minds, get a little lost, and generally just feel their emotions. As much as I enjoyed the story and bits of history, it's really the characters that made this one shine. The ending was also as satisfying as I hoped it would be, just making this an all-around lovely experience.

Closing thoughts:
Normally, I'd rave about the characters specifically and go into more detail, but since that's a lot of the fun of this book I'd rather just end the review here. Usually with dual-POV books I just end up liking someone waaay more than the other and it's a pain to slog through, but I actually (surprisingly since one of them is a man!!) enjoyed both Snow and Bao's perspectives and individual stories. Highly recommend, especially if you appreciate Asian mythology and fox spirits in particular!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own and not sponsored in any way.

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I absolutely loved this book! While not necessarily a fast-paced book, it is beautifully written and character oriented. The story follows Snow, a shapeshifting fox who has undertaken a relentless mission, traveling through China to find the individual responsible for killing her daughter. She eventually enters the service of an elderly widow who is the matriarch of a home affected by a curse which has plagued the family for generations; the firstborn son always dies, leaving the family with one surviving son and one daughter. Meanwhile, we also meet Bao, a retired police officer turned private investigator who has the ability to sense anytime someone is telling a lie. All three lives intersect, along with other individuals Snow has had past relationships with in varying degrees.
This is a stunning tale based on Japanese folklore/mythology, a mystery, and a chronicle of individuals from different walks of life desperately looking for peace and contentment. Many thanks to Henry Holt and Co., Yangsze Choo, and NetGalley got the incredible opportunity to read this stunning work.

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Bao is in his later years and, while living a modest life, is happy with his chosen career as a detective even though he’s a disappointment to his more scholarly family. He has always had a special gift that enables him to recognize when someone tells the truth and this comes in handy in his chosen profession. He also has had a longtime fascination with fox spirits, a superstition he was introduced to in childhood. He equally believes and doesn’t believe these creatures exist. He is called to help to find the identity of a dead woman left at in a store’s doorway so that the store owner can pray for her spirit and keep bad luck from his business. The case leads Bao ever deeper into the world of fox spirits.
Snow is a fox spirit who for this story has taken her human form. She has suffered the loss of a child at the hands of a hunter and she seeks retribution. During her hunt for the man, she ends of working for a family that runs a famous medicine shop. The family matriarch keeps her as a personal servant but also recognizes something special in Snow. The matriarch has Snow keep watch over her adult son, who is subject to a family curse that kills first born males.
The two stories weave in and out of each other and finally collide when Bao’s research leads him ever closer to Snow.
I loved this story that kept me fascinated by both concurrent narratives. Choo does a wonderful job mixing reality and myth and keeping my belief in this magical realism. Snow and Bao are both sympathetic characters and equally enjoyable to read about. While it seems to be primarily Snow’s story, Bao is a strong character and I found myself cheering for him too even though he presented a possible a danger to Snow.
This is the second book I’ve read by this author and I loved The Night Tiger too. This one though is my favorite and I highly recommend it.

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Yangsze Choo’s The Fox Wife is a graceful, unassuming novel set in 1908 China in the waning years of that nation’s final imperial dynasty. The story is built around interlocking halves unspooling in alternating chapters, equal parts folktale and mystery.

At first, the interlacing in this hybrid saga might seem discordant, its mildly fuzzy folkloric ambiguity at odds with the stark exigencies of investigation and discovery. But here, owing mostly to Choo’s remarkably understated narrative voice, the parallel plots mesh in pleasing yin-yang harmony.

The story unfolds around dual quests. The first thread — a heady plunge into magical realism — centers on a shape-shifting fox, a staple of Chinese folklore. Here, the animal assumes the guise of a beautiful young woman. But unlike folkloric shapeshifters elsewhere, this fox-in-disguise is neither temptress nor trickster but a fully sympathetic protagonist who merits a full measure of readers’ empathy. Such fellow feeling undergirds a few embellishments endemic to wonder tales like this (and to contemporary romance fiction as well).

Snow, to use the human name our vulpine heroine goes by, has traversed Manchuria, intent on finding the man responsible for the killing of her fox child some years before. Her growing compulsion for vengeance ultimately leads her into the family circle of an elderly, well-off widow, who takes Snow on as her personal servant. It’s here that Snow’s slow-to-develop blood quest begins to find purchase.

In The Fox Wife’s second narrative — a whodunit of the soft-boiled school, if you will — a retired schoolteacher turned P.I. is seeking the midnight killer of a courtesan left to die in the snow. If we transpose courtesan to tycoon’s mistress, it’s a set-up worthy of Chandler or Spillane. Still, don’t expect any rough stuff in Detective Bao’s protocol. He’s entirely cerebral and blandly serene, with an unerring — and appropriately eerie — knack for spotting an untruth as it leaves a speaker’s lips.

Choo nudges her episodic tale along at a nightstand-friendly pace, dressing her story with vivid helpings of sensuous period detail. Here’s a sampling from different moments in the novel:

“After a hot soak at the communal bathhouse — where for a fee you can wash, get a shave, and relax on a reed mat afterwards, listening to the singing of caged songbirds’’; “the stall awnings were lit with flickering oil lamps, and crowds of people pressed past, buying steamed rice cakes and candied hawthorns”; “there are at least 100 traditional hairstyles for women, with different variations announcing age and status…unfortunately, they all involve pulling and pinning your hair so tightly that you want to scream.’’

References to evocative native cuisine — drunken chicken, translucent jellyfish, pork buns, pungent raw garlic, crispy pancakes, sturgeon, roast pork loin — also recur at a per-chapter frequency that echoes the rivulet of foodie-flattering clues oozing through New Yorker crosswords. For some readers, this will prove to be a mouth-watering plus.

On to conventional matters, specifically the small-R romantic commonplace of uniting long-separated lovers. After her quest is satisfactorily resolved, Snow is free — misunderstandings cleared up — to reunite with her love, another fox-human shapeshifter, who’s lingered latterly in the story under another guise. And Detective Bao, too, his own search put to rest, encounters the long-ago love central to his fantasy life for some 50 years and more, in a surprising situation where mischances might be corrected. Sweet, right?

This is a novel geared to a marketplace often conceived as weighted toward women. Fans of today’s genre romances will likely find The Fox Wife hard to put down until they reach its humane and happy outcome. Not a romance fan? This book may not pluck your heartstrings or swell your bellows, but it’s a strong enough tale to grab at your imagination and inspire your admiration for a very fine writer.

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Absolutely loved this book. It was magical and fairy-taley. It felt like a snowy landscape -- crisp, bright but with darkness just under the surface. I ended up listening to the audiobook and while I enjoyed it, I think I would've loved this book more in print. I'll be going back re read it!

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