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ARC Review: The Foxes of Caminus – Laura Burroughs

Foxes of Caminus
Author: Laura Burroughs
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA
Release Date: Oct 3 2013
Publisher: Smith Publicity
Rating: ♦♦♦ 

Summary: Fraternal twins, Anya and Harlie Fox, are lured from their cozy Atlanta home and deposited on an uncharted island with a riddle to solve. That’s when the teenagers’ lives get complicated. They discover they and their friends have some extraordinary talents. When intruders infiltrate their academy, espionage, kidnapping and murder follow, and the twins are drawn into one of the oldest conflicts in human history. When Anya is forced to accompany  two classmates on a dangerous mission though space and time, Harlie uses his unique talent to help. But the plan goes awry. The twins must challenge their own sense of truth and reach across lines of belief to come out of it alive. The odds are long, the stakes are high and the future of the island hangs in the balance.

If I could use one word to sum up Laura Burrough’s enchanting debut novel it would be ‘surprising’. Foxes of Caminus is bright, well developed, detailed and an utter fantasy for the present times. Despite my emotional roller-coaster while engrossed in the book, I actually find that I liked it.

There are so many moments that Foxes is simply delightful. The ample futuristic technology, the lush descriptions, and the x-men-like talents of the scholars, all put together sets the stage for another perfect best-seller.

However. I quite nearly quit a few pages in.

The first few pages do not set up what you are about to encounter at all. The twins are dropped off on an uncharted island (by their seemingly uncaring mother who told them nothing) and told to solve a riddle. It seems so clear when I write it in the previous sentence. But it is not so in the book. The present is over explained, (here is a map, look at the map, it’s an old map) yet nothing is said for a final goal. There’s no set up, no preamble, no chance to see the characters in a defining moment before we finally get to the main angle: The Academy.

THAT’S WHAT THIS WAS ABOUT? THIS WHOLE TIME? REALLY? YOU COULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING. MOM IS DROPPING US OFF AT THIS STUPID SCHOOL, BUT WE HAVE TO SOLVE A RIDDLE TO GET IN, LAME. WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER.

When the twins finally do enter the Academy, it seems so rushed and haphazard (to the characters) that I hardly believed that’s where the story was taking me. Not to mention that the transitions between the dual narration of the twins was often so jarring that I had to backtrack to see where I had left one off.

I had resolutely decided that this book deserved two stars, due to the fact that it lacked an overarching plot, that most structure seemed to be thrown out the window, and that there were moments when the cast seemed so large that I got lost in all their voices.

Excuse me, I’m the Doctor. You wouldn’t happen to see a major plot lying around, would you?

But there were so many moments that I resonated with what the characters were going through, wishing I could have gone to an Academy such as this, so many scenes where I genuinely forgot that I was here and not there (as readers often do) that I needed to give it another star.

I think however, that most of the problems I found incredibly frustrating would have been resolved by a beginning that set up the Academy, the talents of the Scholars, and the general coming-of-age type narrative that the book is (instead of a plot driven novel that it seems to be).

Had I known that it would have been Harry Potter-like in that the plot was the year instead of a streamlined story, I would have enjoyed it so much more. (A note on HP – there is a plot overarching the whole novel, and I believe Foxes would have benefited by tying all the unattached events together.)

Overall, I’d recommend it to a young teen, twelve, maybe thirteen. Not for the story, but for the genuine moments of discovery, the forbidden use of the word can’t, and the painful reminder that we are so often lost in our own paradigms and prejudices that cannot see what is right in front of our faces. I love the topics that this book covers and the genuine themes that it makes it’s characters face.

Shall I challenge your paradigm of time?

Ps. I did not enjoy her descriptions of people’s voices (honeyed, sultry, spicy, husky). They sounded like they were transplanted from a bad romance novel. And fourteen-year-old teens don’t really describe things like bad romance novels.