The Fox Wife
by Yangsze Choo
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 15 Mar 2024
Henry Holt & Company, Henry Holt and Co.
Some people think foxes are similar to ghosts because we go around collecting qi, but nothing could be further than the truth. We are living creatures, just like you, only usually better looking . . .
In the last years of the dying Qing Empire, a courtesan is found frozen in a doorway. Her death is clouded by rumors of foxes, which are believed to lure people by transforming themselves into beautiful women and handsome men. Bao, a detective with an uncanny ability to sniff 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 who owns a famous Chinese medicine shop can cure ailments but can’t escape the curse that afflicts them—their eldest sons die before their twenty-fourth birthdays. When a disruptively winsome servant named Snow enters their household, the family’s luck seems to change—or does it?
Snow is a creature of many secrets, but most of all she’s a mother seeking vengeance for her lost child. Hunting a murderer, she will follow the trail from northern China to Japan, while Bao follows doggedly behind. Navigating the myths and misconceptions of fox spirits, both Snow and Bao will encounter old friends and new foes, even as more deaths occur.
New York Times bestselling author Yangsze Choo brilliantly explores a world of mortals and
spirits, humans and beasts, and their dazzling intersection. Epic in scope and full of singular, unforgettable characters, The Fox Wife is a stunning novel about old loves and second chances, the depths of maternal love, and ancient folktales that may very well be true.
“The Fox Wife is a rich tangle of myth, mystery, and history, delivered with Choo's inimitable grace and precision. It's not a book so much as a beguilement; it enchanted me entirely.” —Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling author of Starling House
“Masterfully plotted and superbly surprising, The Fox Wife will entice you into a world of magic and heartbreak, a beautiful tapestry woven from love and revenge and forgiveness. Beware: once you start, you may not be able to put it down!” —Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Independence and The Last Queen
“Choo weaves yet another enthralling tale and, this time, it’s a glimpse of the immortal lives of foxes. Her prose is lush as ever and Yuki is a captivating lens of emotions and magic.”—Roselle Lim, author of Sophie Go's Lonely Hearts Club
“The Fox Wife is a beautifully written novel full of mystery, spirits and folktales of ancient China. It is a page turner that will hold your interest to the very last page.” —Elizabeth Merritt, Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA
“The Fox Wife is a fairy tale and a warning. Full of shapeshifting and love, it's a story about the dangers of trying to be someone other than your truest self. A terrific follow up to The Night Tiger! ”—Anne Holman, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT
"There is such magic in the writing, with a turn of the page it felt as if you could step right into the story."—Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, NY
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 62 members
This is one of my few 5-star reviews so far this year. This book gets ALL the adjectives: mysterious, lovely, heartbreaking, satisfying, lyrical, deadly, and so many more.
Ah San (or Snow) and Tagtaa are characters I will remember for a very long time. Both driven by love for family and loyalty to friends and lovers, they drive this story forward as one seeks revenge and one seeks to protect.
The writing here is some of the best I’ve read in a long time and the story grips you from the first page forward. I feel like this would be amazing in audiobook form and will look for that in the future.
Highly, highly recommended.
I’ve loved Yangsze Choo’s previous novels so I was really excited to hear about her next one! The summary sounded intriguing and atmospheric, and I was dying to read more of her gorgeous writing. Mysterious and mischievous, The Fox Wife unfolds a story of a mother seeking revenge in a world where fox spirits run amok.
In 1908 Manchuria, a private detective named Bao is hired to investigate a woman’s mysterious death that his instincts can’t help but point him in the direction of the fox spirits he’s been obsessed with ever since he was a child. Unbeknownst to him, one of these fox spirits, Snow, is looking into her own mystery, tracking down a photographer in revenge of her child’s death. Soon she crosses paths with an old friend-slash-enemy Shiro, who puts her in the path of Kuro, someone she had never wanted to see again.
As usual, I adored Choo’s prose! She has this way of writing that fully immerses you in a world and the character’s mind. The Fox Wife, in particular, reminded me of both of her previous works, with the mystery of The Night Tiger and the heart and levity of The Ghost Bride. I definitely want to reread the latter now after reading this book.
The dual point-of-view does leave a little to be desired, simply because Snow’s chapters are definitely the focus of the story. Bao is always two steps behind what we’ve learned from her character already, but his chapters do serve to show us other parts of Snow’s backstory that she either glosses over or doesn’t touch on initially. I don’t think his point-of-view weighed the story down too much though because I was interested in his backstory.
Bao’s story intertwines with hers even aside from the mystery he’s investigating, which ended up being really sweet. The juxtaposition between their two points-of-view, with Bao’s leaning toward a mystery while Snow’s was, for the most part, more lighthearted and fun, also kept me on my toes. She also gives us the firsthand insight on what it’s like being a fox spirit and living so long, compared to Bao’s veiled knowledge of the mythology.
However, again, to me, Snow is the heart of the story. She’s a mother bent on revenge, searching for a Manchurian photographer who is obsessed with white fox stoles, after he murdered her child while she slept. Her point-of-view read as very mischievous and mercurial, exactly the tone that you would think a fox spirit would have. I mourned with her character and yet I also had fun with her view on the world.
The other characters were also great additions to the story. I particularly loved Snow’s interactions with the other fox spirits, Shiro and Kuro. Shiro often drives her crazy due to his trickster nature and lack of concern for getting caught. Meanwhile, Kuro is someone she never wanted to see again, for reasons that soon become apparent. The three of them bumping up against each other with their own agendas was incredibly amusing to follow.
There also was a bit of romance that I really loved. Choo’s works include only a hint of romance, but that small amount is enough to make you obsessive over it. The ending was so sweet for all of the characters.
The Fox Wife was a thoroughly engaging novel that I couldn’t put down. I loved the gorgeous writing and the characters, as well as the fox spirits and the worldbuilding. If you’re a fan of Yangsze Choo’s previous novels or of thrilling historical fantasy mysteries, I definitely recommend The Fox Wife!