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Book Review: The Fox's Tower by Sam Thompson (Little Island Books)

Illustrated by Anna Tromop


For ages 9+



Yes, it's one of those occasions when I watched, waited and I secured an advance reading copy of this incredible sequel. As a children's literature enthusiast there are some authors that I yearn for more writing to be published as soon as I've finished their latest book, and Sam Thompson is one of these rare breeds.



This is the second in the series of a deep and dark story of a world deep in the forest, in a civilisation unfamiliar to humans whereby foxes are led by an old foe, Reynard, who is once again leader of a misguided dictatorship. In the first book 'Wolfstongue', the foxes and their enslaved forest creatures lived in a dystopian underground city. It was here in that a vicious battle took place when wolves joined forces with a human child to depose the foxes' rule. Thompson’s 'Wolfstongue' published in 2021 and was then and remains a book I encourage every teacher to read.


About the book

Once I started reading the opening lines of ‘The Fox’s Tower’ my heart panged. Even though I haven’t read ‘Wolftongue’ for over year, the story has stayed with me and I experienced a heart muscle memory of anxiety and fear of what on earth could have led to a girl witnessing her father being dragged by his boots from her garden in front of her very eyes one night.

It turns out many years have passed since the adventures in ‘Wolfstongue’. Willow is Silas’s daughter. She tears into the forest in the middle of the night on a path that will reunite her with her father’s wolves and their pack; she will come face-to-face with Reynard in his new Tower powered by some kind of earth magic and she will have to navigate a bloody revolution in order to save her father.


This is an unputdownable rescue mission. Teaming together with young wolves descended from the ‘Wolfstongue’ pack and other allies readers will be relieved to meet again, Willow has to be brave, bold, selfless, cunning and clever to outwit her enemies. Perhaps she should have believed her father’s stories about the foxes and the wolves all along.


Much like reading children’s books written by Tolkien, CS Lewis and perhaps more recently Philip Pulman, Piers Torday, Melissa Harrison, I’m seeing more reflected back to me through the complex interactions of 'humanised' animals than the pages in black and white text or Anna Tromop’s incredibly detailed and plentiful illustrations can comparably be quantified. While reading 'The Fox's Tower', I’m asking myself questions about power, about the balance of power, who might the fox or the lion be represented by in history or even in politics today.


There is much philosophy within both books in this series. Humans create stories for themselves and for other creatures on our planet, the lion is the King of the jungle, the fox is cunning and a wiley, but for the creatures of this world who do not understand or speak with a human voice why do we put our words into their narrative? Why do creatures have to think and care the same way as humans? This brilliant and highly intelligent story had me second-guessing the characters on more than one occasion. I found myself being tricked and fooled, feeling unease at my own vulnerability where I wanted to believe forgiveness and trust was the right path.

This is an incredibly powerful story on so many levels and I can imagine exam questions and analysis aplenty being set on its analogous text for years to come.


About the creators


Sam Thompson (author)

Sam Thompson is a fiction writer – novels and short stories for grown-ups and children. His writing has been longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Encore Prize, and has won the Spark School Book Award.





Anna Tromop (illustrator)

Anna is a Norwegian illustrator currently based in Hanoi, with a particular love for detail, storytelling and texture. She works mainly with traditional medium such as pencil, ink, watercolour and print, and is inspired by natural history, myth and other fantastical stories.



Key themes


families

animal adventure

survival

bravery

politics

civilisation

nature

grief


Grab a copy


Buy here through my affiliate link at Bookshop.org or purchase from your local independent bookshop...

Publication date: 6 October 2022

Format: Paperback


Also by Sam Thompson:

'Wolfstongue' (Little Island Books, 2021)


Praise for 'Wolfstongue'

‘[Wolfstongue] has all the makings of a modern classic with its exhilarating mix of ancient fable and contemporary issues… Not since Watership Down have animal dynamics felt so true and the political undertones so live’ – Alex O’Connell, The Times

‘The writing raises this to classic status… Gripping and profound, Wolfstongue may be for children but it is about being human’ – Amanda Craig, New Statesman

‘An unforgettable fable. Raw, devastating and brilliantly written.’ – Lucy Strange, author of The Ghost of Gosswater

‘A fiercely gentle tale, heartwarming and brave.’ – Myra Zepf, Winner KPMG/CBI Children’s Book of the Year 2020

‘A startling entrance into children’s fiction.’ – Pet O’Connell, The Echo

‘An edge-of-the-seat adventure.’ – Meg Rosoff, author of The Great Godden

‘An intelligent and powerful story about words and language and what it means to have a voice. The illustrations by Anna Tromop are stunning too!’ – A. M. Howell, author of The House of One Hundred Clocks

‘An absolute delight. Warm and thoughtful, full of insight.’ – Kelly McCaughrain, author of Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

Wolfstongue has classic written all over it’ – Patricia Forde, author of The Wordsmith


*review copy provided by the publisher


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