THE NAVIGATING FOX BY CHRISTOPHER ROWE
The Navigating Fox by Christopher Rowe
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fable, Fantasy
Pages: 160 pages (print)
Published: 26th September 2023, Tordotcom
The Navigating Fox was a joy to read. Each page is packed with well-developed world-building, compelling characters, humor, and mystery. I found it remarkable that so much excitement was packed into a one-session novella, and I hope to see many more stories set in this world.
The setting leans on Roman history for its naming conventions and overall aesthetic. In this world, the animals are divided into two categories. The gifted animals are “knowledgeable,” self-aware and able to communicate with spoken language. They have been bestowed the gift of high intelligence. The rest of the non-knowledgeable animals are referred to as “voiceless,” and they consist of traditional animal intelligence. What makes some animals knowledgeable? This is but one of many interesting questions raised during this story.
Quintus, our narrator, is a fox – and he’s the only knowledgeable fox in the world. He is a navigator, and helps expeditions travel and explore using hidden paths. We join Quintus after he returns from a first, tragic journey. But he is soon pressed into duty for a second expedition, with a terrifying goal. The story alternates chapters between past (first expedition) and present (second expedition), while Quintus aims to discover important secrets about his past along the way.
There is a wonderful set of characters in the story, and I quickly grew attached to several of them. Rowe injects lifelike personality into both his human and animal characters, while addressing issues of morality and purpose.
There’s so much going on in this highly entertaining world that I would be shocked if there aren’t more novellas planned in this setting. The Navigating Fox is a rich and colorful story, with fun characters and intriguing plot lines, and I am already hungry for the follow-up.