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The Fox    by Sherwood Smith order for
by Sherwood Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I had been anticipating reading this sequel to Sherwood Smith's Inda for a long time, and was in no way disappointed in The Fox, the second in an exceptional new fantasy series. The first book led readers through prince Indevan-Dal's childhood in the kingdom of Iasca Leror, his exile to a life at sea for the good of the kingdom (after a ploy of the selfish heir's led to a death), and a painful coming of age there. Inda, a very young military genius and natural leader, eventually led a mercenary crew to protect merchant shipping from pirates.

The first episode ended on a cliffhanger, when Inda's ship was taken by pirates led by the infamous and cruel Walic. Amongst the crew are two Marlovans - Barend, the despised son of Iasca Leror's Sierandael (the king's brother), and Fox Montredavan-An (heir to a dynasty that once ruled Iasca Leror, but whose members have been confined to their own lands since their enemies' ascension to the throne). Forced into piracy, Inda, along with his old crewmates and new allies, plan mutiny. They eventually take over the ship and work to fulfill Inda's vision to first break the pirate Brotherhood of Blood, and later deal with the Venn invaders who have been harrying shipping and have their eye on Iasca Leror. Inda often muses on net building versus breaking and on the words of his childhood companion Tdor (a builder) that 'if enough people made the moral choice, wasn't that as near to creating a moral certainty as anything else in the world?'

Meanwhile back home, the original authors of Inda's troubles have their own problems to contend with. The king's elder son, the Sierlaef, had ordered the assassination of Inda's elder brother Tanrid, being obsessed with the astonishingly beautiful Joret, who was brought up to become Tanrid's wife. Despite the Sierlaef's plans to kill the killers, word begins to spread of what he's done, eventually reaching Inda's home at Choraed Elgaer, as well as Inda's good friend, Evred, the king's younger son. The latter repeatedly seeks word of Inda's life at sea and attempts to contact him, hoping to redress the injustice done to his beloved friend at his family's hands - but keeps missing him. Evred also makes contact with a morvende, one of the magical old Sartorans. While at sea, Inda meets the legendary mage Ramis, and learns from him about another very powerful threat to his world, from Norsunder.

The Fox, second in a brilliant, multi-layered series, is filled with thrilling action on land and at sea, captures and escapes, betrayals and treachery, and even some romance for its beleaguered leads - and ends in a long-awaited return from exile. I can't wait for more!

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