Cover Image: The Fox Wife

The Fox Wife

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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!

Was this review helpful?

I loved this book from start to finish. I have a soft spot for fairy tales, which may have played into how much I loved this book, but I also think the writing was just outstanding. There are arguably more than 2 main characters, though the two you spend time with the most throughout the book are so deeply written that it's impossible not to root for them to each complete their quests. The other characters are mostly written through their relationships with Bao and Snow, and those that fall into their gravitational pull - however, this did not diminish at all how close you felt with each of them. While the book of course contained magic and folklore, the relationships and storyline still felt natural, and the two main stories came together in a satisfying conclusion. Snow's deeply serious revenge quest is interspersed with humor and mystery, both heartbreaking and hopeful. Bao's path for a purpose is winding, the reader slowly learning - while he does - what he's really looking for.

Thank you NetGalley for the advanced copy!

Was this review helpful?

This is a well-written, slow paced, unique dive into Chinese culture, folklore, and history. There are slow and planned reveals, twists in the plot, and you need to take your time with this book. It’s so atmospheric and magical (magical realism) that combined with the pacing you really do feel a satisfying slow down. This book isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Was this review helpful?

The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo is an excellent read for lovers of magic realism. Through the characters of Bao, an elderly investigator, and Snow, a fox who can become human, Choo explores Chinese history, culture, and folklore in this compelling tale. There is a varied set of characters and a plot with surprising twists and turns. The conclusion is satisfying in unexpected ways. The storytelling is very visual, this would make a great graphic novel. Strongly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

In Chinese folklore, foxes are depicted as magical creatures who are mischievous, curious, and seductive. I didn’t know much about them before reading this book but was overwhelmingly surprised and captivated with them in this story.

It takes place in 1908 in the last years of the dying Qing Empire, following two characters and their perspectives. One is Snow, mystical a white fox hunting the murder of her baby cub. The other is Bao, an older detective hired to investigate a mysterious death of a courtesan. The story is layered with both historical fiction and fantasy as the foxes and their human disguises complicate the daily lives of the humans around them.

As the plot thickens, their paths converge in the best way. I loved this fast-paced adventure!

Are you interested in this one?

4 and 1/2 stars

Was this review helpful?

This was my first time reading Choo and I'm glad I picked this up. I love magical realism and incorporation of folklore, so this was right up my alley. This story read really quickly and held my interest throughout. I thought it was particularly interesting how the foxes interacted with humans. Looking forward to reading more books by Choo in the future.

Was this review helpful?

Such a moving story! This was so whimsical and remarkable! I've never heard or read anything like this, but I truly enjoyed it! The character development for several of the main characters was truly remarkable to watch. The deep backstory and how all of the characters' lives intertwined was a beautiful thing to watch unfold. Yangsze Choo has a truly vivid and brilliant way of writing, I felt like part of the story. It moved me along like leaves floating in the wind. I loved every moment of this and want to read more from this author now! This story had some great twists, and the ending was beautiful. All of it was perfect.

I received this book from NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company to read/review. All of the statements above are my true opinions after fully reading this book.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co. for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I, unfortunately, really struggled with this book. However, I think it’s just not the book for me. The Fox Wife is well-written and the depictions of Manchuria in the early 1900s are particularly well-done. I just found it too slow and lacking in the fantasy aspect for my preference.

If you enjoy historical fiction, especially of times and places not often depicted, with just a hint of fantasy, then this is a good fit for you.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

This story was incredibly unique, and the mythology was something that I've never read about before.

The book follows two alternating story lines (though they take place at the same time). One, Snow, a fox creature who has taken the form of a human woman in order to seek revenge, and two, Bao, an elderly investigator with a strange ability to discern lies from truths.

Choo did an incredible job with these characters. Each one is individual and fleshed out, and their actions and motivations are varied. It's a bit hard to explain, but Choo makes sure that Snow, the fox, follows a completely different thought pattern than a human with a normal life span would. Many times when an author creates a story with an almost-human or a near-immortal, the character still tends to resemble humans in their narrative. Snow is neither monstrous nor human in her thoughts, but she looks at the world in a very different way than the humans around her. That was one of my favorite parts of the book - her narrative. It felt realistic for someone who had lived for a very long time and lived a very different kind of life than humans. Overall, the characters were impressive dynamic, and even detestable characters were interesting.

The historical aspects of this book also seem well done, and it seems that the author did effective research into this time period. The historical details were not boring, and I think that anyone interested in this time period in western Asia would like this book.

The plot felt a bit meandering, and there were definitely parts that were slower than others, which tended to made the book feel a bit long. Take this with a grain of salt - I was very busy while reading this, and this may have influenced by perception of the pace a bit. It was definitely slow at points, but I think that this might add to the story for many readers.

I would highly recommend this book. The story, mythology, and the characters were all incredible. The only reason it did not receive a higher rating from me is because of the slow pacing. The ending is also very satisfactory, so even a slow pace was worth it in the end.

Was this review helpful?