CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2017
Scion of the Fox is book one of The Realms of Ancient trilogy, a fantasy with Japanese and Lovecraftian elements set in modern-day Winnipeg, MB. Roan Harken is saved from death by a fox who tells Roan she was marked as a sacrifice to placate a river serpent called Zabor. Roan learns that her family is one of the Five Families—Fox, Rabbit, Deer, Owl and Seal— that keep the balance of the creator, Ancient, and that Zabor is a Darkling who fights against them. The Families had made a pact with Zabor to offer her their offspring so she wouldn't make the Assiniboine River flood. Sil the fox believes Roan is the key to defeating Zabor; she just needs to gather a representative from each of the other four families and find a talisman called the targe. But Zabor has monster children out looking for Roan, and the Owls are determined to keep the pact and see Roan sacrificed.
Roan trains her awakening Fox powers with Sil while discovering other students at her high school who are members of the Families. Barton is a Rabbit who is willing to help Roan, but he had his Rabbit powers severed before birth so he couldn't be used as a sacrifice. When he is injured by Zabor's children, Roan's best friend Phae agrees to inherit Deer powers so she can heal Barton.
After a number of battles with Owls and river monsters, Roan learns to control her Fox fire, Barton regains his Rabbit connection with earth, Phae masters her healing powers, and they are joined by Natti, a Seal who controls water. It seems impossible to get an Owl on their side, but when they open a portal to the Bloodlands to find the targe, their most fierce Owl opponent, Eli, is dragged down with Roan. Eli and Roan briefly lose their memories of who they are and have to work together to survive the dangers of the Bloodlands. Eli realizes he has been controlled by the stone that grants him his Owl powers, and he helps Roan find the targe and escape the Bloodlands.
In a climactic battle with the giant river monster Zabor and all her children, the five teens join together to bind Zabor and cast her into the Bloodlands. All is not well, however, because, even from the Bloodlands, Zabor can influence happenings on earth, and there are still two more Darklings yet to awaken.
Scion of the Fox is exciting and action-packed, with a team of diverse and interesting characters learning to work together and trust each other in the face of horrifying danger. Roan is an appealing narrator, self-aware and clever but realistically impatient and temperamental. Her relationships with her family are complex and form the heart of the story: she has a grandmother who abandoned her, an uncle who is supposed to kill her, and an aunt who has no idea about the Families, and yet by the end Roan comes to terms with the different kinds of love they each offer.
The mythology is more complicated than it needs to be, and occasionally the explanations get confusing, but the idea of the Five animal Families is interesting and well-developed, and Roan and her friends' discovery of their powers is fun to watch. The monsters are entertainingly disgusting, horrific enough to make for suspenseful fighting scenes.
Pacing falters somewhat in the middle, and the climactic battle goes on longer than it needs to, but the stakes and the tension keep rising convincingly, and the engaging characters will keep a reader turning the pages.
Incorporation of Winnipeg landscape and architecture into the fantasy world is well done, including an enjoyable reinterpretation of the legislative building's iconography.
Scion of the Fox is a highly readable adventure that will appeal to fans of both horror and fantasy.
Kim Aippersbach, a writer, editor and mother of three, lives in Vancouver, BC.