Review: 'The Silver Foxes' series by M. R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin’s author’s page on Amazon.com identifies her as a young Jamaican resident of the U.S.
“Fanfiction” has a particular place in her heart since she started by writing fanfics. She enjoys writing YA and middle grade fiction.
She has a different definition of “fanfics” than most other people, since her amateur fiction is all original, without anyone else’s copyrighted characters in it.
She says on FaceBook about Prelude to War:
Even though the main characters are animals, it is meant for an audience of 13+. I'd consider it Christian (or at least inspirational) fantasy fiction.
I assume that means she considers fiction with talking animals as being for young children; e.g., she is not familiar with furry fiction.
Besides these three Silver Foxes novels, she has written Lucas, Guardian of Truth, a Christian fantasy with a human 11-year-old protagonist. Anglin’s first two Silver Foxes books were self-published through Lulu.com. She has recently transferred them to CreateSpace, and finished the third novel.
This year , I've been working on revising and revamping book 3 in the series for print.
And it is here.
Silver Foxes, by M. R. Anglin, Raleigh, NC, Lulu.com, April 2008, trade paperback $12.00 (134 pages).
Winds of Change, by M. R. Anglin, Raleigh, NC, Lulu.com, June 2009, trade paperback $14.99 (216 pages).
Prelude to War, by M. R. Anglin, Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, October 2013, trade paperback $11.99 (viii + 298 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $2.99.
The three novels are set on the planet Clorth. Silver Foxes begins with a partial myth “pieced together from the remains of Truths Behind the Legends: A dictionary of your favorite myths and the truths they were based on, a book found in Jelu shortly after its destruction.” The myth tells how the legendary Silver Foxes were created by the gods, but used their bioelectrical powers for evil, and became extinct. Nobody believes that the Silver Foxes ever really existed.
The sun set on two foxes huddled by the remains of a wall in the middle of a sea of rubble. Clouds of smoke lingered from the ruin and mingled with the dust that was settling. […] The white kit whimpered in her sister’s arms, and it was the whimpering that made the wolf turn aside from his mission. (p. 9)
J. R. Dunsworth, the wolf (or his alias), is presumably not a nice person.
Fifteen minutes later, J.R. cut the engine of his speeder and coasted to a stop in front of a grocery store. The streetlights hadn’t yet come on, but in the twilight, J.R. caught sight of a reward poster. His mouth curled into a smirk at the picture of himself, and he glanced at the list of offences he had committed […] Grabbing the door, he took a glimpse at the amount of the reward: $1,500,000.
“Alright!” He walked in, leaving the two kits outside. “I finally broke a million.” (p. 11)
So why does a tough-guy wolf rescue two helpless little fox kits from a ruin? J.R. doesn’t know himself, but he passes up every opportunity to dump the burden on someone else.
As the story progresses, the nature of the anthro planet is expanded:
J.R. turned to the left where the front counter was and saw the back of a brown Manchester terrier. He threw his arms open and called at the top of his lungs, “Hello, hello, my hometown, hello.”
The terrier turned to him. His ears drooped at the ends and gray strands speckled his fur. “J.R.? What are you doing here so early?”
“Yeah,” his daughter, Melody, stopped her sweeping and approached him. “I thought cold-blooded reptiles prefer to come out at night.” She was brown like her father, but her ears flopped at the ends. Her brown hair cascaded onto her shoulders, and her blue eyes stared straight into his. (p. 21)
There are cats, leopards, weasels, frogs and other sentient animals in this world. The adolescent cat girls consider J.R. a hunk, so there is no species differentiation. After a bit more action with J.R. and Xena, the slightly older (and cuter) of the two gray fox juvenile kits, to establish that J.R. has an exterior of steel and a heart of marshmallow, the villains responsible for the razing of Jelu are revealed: the Gray Fox Group Corporation, “a cutting-edge security research and development firm” (an Evil Corporation) headed by red fox Maximilian Descarté that is trying to duplicate the legendary powers of the mythical Silver Foxes by technological means. Seven years pass, during which Xena develops bioelectrical powers that J.R. investigates cautiously. When she is twelve, Max learns of them and decides that the young gray fox is too much like the legendary Silver Foxes for coincidence. He kidnaps Xena and her white-furred little sister. J.R. goes after to rescue them, and that’s Silver Foxes.
Okay. It’s pure funny-animal fiction. All of the talking animals are interchangeable surrogate humans. All kinds of questions go unanswered. The destruction of Jelu and the deaths of its inhabitants does not happen during a war and is apparently completely unexpected, so isn’t anyone curious about what happened or worried that it might happen again to some other community? Doesn’t anyone consider that a ruthless Evil Corporation in their midst is something to be concerned about?
But Silver Foxes is smoothly written, with generally likeable characters. Even the villains are semi-charismatic. Anglin writes good “cute”. This is a children’s/young adult novel, and even if it’s not meant to be, this is a good introduction to furry fiction for the mainstream child. Even furry fans who are parents might consider this as better than a furry classic for adults to ease children into furry fiction.
Of course, there are many classic non-furry talking-animal novels already, such as Rabbit Hill or Ben and Me by Robert Lawson; when I was less than 10 years old, I fully enjoyed the Freddy the Pig novels by Walter R. Brooks, but the teachers and children’s librarians recommended them to all the kids. I never felt that they were “just for me”; I was only going along with the herd. If you are looking for a “non-establishment” novel for kids who want to feel that they have something “special”, consider M. R. Anglin.
Winds of Change, a direct sequel, is set only two or three years later, but there has been a revolution in information. There is a date: October 4587. The Age of the Silver Foxes, which was in the semi-mythical past in Silver Foxes, is now dated to 1005-3046. The country in Clorth where Silver Foxes takes place is Drymairad; the country where the ancient Silver Foxes ruled is Expermia. The two-thousand Age of the Silver Foxes was abruptly cut short by the Great Annihilation, a.k.a. the Expimer War of 3045-3046, when:
Without warning or provocation, the countries of the Outside World assembled and invaded the eastern border […] The Outsiders rolled through Expermia annihilating every Silver Fox they could find, young or old, male or female. (p. 8)
So by 4587, the Silver Foxes have supposedly been extinct for over 1,500 years.
Winds of Change jumps back and forth between three stories. Sixteen-year-old Hairo Permaine V, an Expermian red fox calling himself Hunter, is on the run in Drymairad. He comes to the tiny town of Justin’s Ridge at the beginning of a cold winter. Hunter considers it “Hick Hell” and intends to stop just long enough to buy some groceries, until he is captivated by the grocery clerk, Xena, now 14 or 15. J.R. Dunsworth, who considers Justin’s Ridge “his” town, is about to order Hunter to move on until Xena persuades him to let Hunter stay in town during the winter.
Meanwhile, Max Descarté, with Celeste Sinceré, a young gray vixen slave girl whom he bought and freed, have come to Kingston, the capital of the Kingdom of Drymairad.
The only reason she [Celeste] and Max were in Kingston now was because Max had been vying for the position of Minister of Defense and the Royal Parliament was about to have its final hearings. (p. 15)
Celeste, whose viewpoint this second plot is, hero-worships the sophisticated Max for saving her from slavery. She does not know that Max arranged the “accidental” death of the previous Minister of Defense to create the opening for himself.
The third plot is started by Terrance Claybourne, the cruel orange tabby cat from whom Max Descarté bought Celeste. Vix, a mercenary brown Alpine wolf who was a temporary ally of J.R. in Silver Foxes, sells him the secret of Xena: a Silver Fox alive after 1,500 years. Terrance wants a Silver Fox for his harem of exotic women, and sends H. Prowler, “the best bounty hunter I have ever met” (p. 24), to “collect” her.
Hunter can’t help notice that all the other teens in Justin’s Ridge shun Xena or call her a “freak”, and that she dresses heavily in rubber-lined clothes. He wants to protect and help her, but he is aware that Terrance is offering $800,000 for a Silver Fox, and $800,000 is $800,000.
Meanwhile, Celeste is terrified that she will embarrass Max, but she manages to outshine almost everyone else. She privately credits this to her having grown up as a slave; slaves had to get really good at reading their superiors to know how to act around them. Max is delighted at how good an impression she is making, which makes him look good, until the tiger King Fredelep of Drymairad takes a very personal interest in her. This gives her an unbelievably good opportunity to promote Max; but Celeste wonders if he is more interested in the Minister of Defense appointment than in losing her?
The “people” in Winds of Change include a platypus and a blue bird. Each chapter is subtitled “50 days [and diminishing] to Engtnight”, creating another mystery. What is the enigmatic Engtnight, and what will happen when the clock reaches zero?
Prelude to War is written four years after the first two, and Anglin has incorporated new writing techniques into it.
The chapters go back and forth from the present to the past. (p. 1)
There are sixty chapters, and their titles are significant.
There are two stories intertwined here; Hunter’s, whom the reader met in Winds of Change, and that of a new character, Karalaina Dúcume, an Expermian salmon-colored fox. The “present” is very shortly after Winds of Change, but the mood is much more somber.
In Prelude to War, the reader learns more about the international political scene on Clorth. Expermia is a totalitarian police state ruled by a Grand Council. It has been “ethnically cleansed” until only foxes live there. Expermians have been taught that the rest of the world is lumped together into the lands of “the Outsiders”, a chaotic mixture of dozens of species. Unlike the previous histories of evil Silver Foxes, the Expermian state considers The Age of the Silver Foxes and its Silver Fox aristocracy as its Golden Age, and their extinction in the Great Annihilation as a national tragedy.
Karalaina Dúcume is introduced in the present as on the run from the Expermian government and military, and in the past, a giddy teen student thrilled to be allowed (under close supervision) to attend an Outsider college.
“Listen up, everyone.” Mrs. Capsum stood on the bus steps so everyone could see her. “Welcome to the Cultural Experience Program. The Expermian government has allowed you, the chosen few, to visit Daes, an Outsider country. Such a thing has been unheard of in our country’s history. Your job will be to study alongside of an Outsider, chosen specifically to complement your field of research.” (p. 17)
Dialogue establishes that the Expermians are just coming out of years of isolation. While the other Expermian students have been raised to consider themselves as superior to any Outsiders, Karalaina looks forward to making exotic new acquaintances.
Further summary would contain too many spoilers – this is really tightly written – but all the main cast of the two previous books are present, and all their mysteries are revealed, especially the Great Jelu Tragedy. Silver Foxes isn’t bad, but Anglin’s writing noticeably improves by Prelude to War. However, you can’t skip the first two novels because of the background that they contain. There is clearly more in the Silver Foxes series to come; this Vol. 3 really does end with a prelude to war.
All three covers are by Tazia Hall. That has to be Karalaina and Hunter on Prelude to War, but he is the cutest sixteen-year-old that I’ve ever seen.
Anglin may be writing for Young Adults, but “grown-ups” reading the Silver Foxes series will not be disappointed.