Art, Books, Don and Wen

Barb Taub reviews Mister Fox: Winter’s Tail…

Mister Fox Winter’s Tail by Stuart France & Sue Vincent

Where is Mister Fox?

The night howls in triumph… pale eyes watch from the shadows…

It is the night of the Hunter’s Moon and the dancing ground should be alive with flame as the Foxes dance in the dark. But the dancing ground is deserted. They are gone. No earthly light pierces the gloom, only the sickly glow of a veiled moon. Don and Wen stare in disbelief.

Whispers in the shadows, a faceless voice, a tale of ambush and betrayal… of Foxes driven from their home and scattered, condemned to wander far from their ancestral lands. Charles James Fox wounded… none has seen him since that fateful night.

Will the Hunter’s Moon pass in darkness? Have the Demon Dogs succeeded in their mission to bring eternal winter to the land? Or will their celebrations be short-lived?…

For none may mar the Dancing Ground
Nor add their darkness to the night,
Nor stand against the Silver Fox,
The wielder of the Staff of Light…

My Review: 4 stars out of 5

The graphic novels that make up the Mister Fox series are, frankly, weird. Character development, plot, pacing, or almost any of the elements I would normally demand from a book—especially one I like—are virtually irrelevant. Instead the authors have created a visually stunning retelling of the cycle of the seasons, presented as an otherworldly re-enactment of a myth.

Every culture has stories of supernatural interference with the cycle of nature. Persephone has to go to Hades before she can come back to bring spring. The great summer and winter solstices have to be observed so planting and harvesting can be scheduled. Night has to follow day. Egyptian sun god Ra must fight the underworld serpent Apep every night in order for the day to return. The Greek goddesses of day and night, Hemia and Nyx, meet each day. “Nyx and Hemera draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze: and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door.”–Hesiod’s Theogony, c. 700BCE”

And how do you mark this importance? By showing what happens when the cycle is broken of course. When Persephone’s distraught mother Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, can’t find her daughter, all the crops fail. It’s only the return of Persephone every spring that allows crops to grow.

And, as all believers know, it’s better not to leave anything this important in the laps of easily distractible deities. So you build temples, chapels, stone circles. Conduct ceremonies, say prayers, and even channel your gods through ritual to ensure they stay on task.

And that’s where Mister Charles James Fox and his band of (anonymous) dancers come in. By firelight as autumn moves toward winter, Summer, in the form of a giant crow, wages epic battle against the foxes who herald the change of season and the arrival of winter. Their primeval battle is a dance, set to drum and pipe music and waged against the flickering flames of fire and torch.

But when the friends of the foxes, Wen and Don, arrive expecting to see the usual dance, they’re shocked to find all the foxes have disappeared. Their search for their friends turns up a story that starts in 1591…

For this modern day recreation of a myth, the graphic novel format is perfect. The flames glow against the darkness, wrapping the dancers in a layer of magic and fantasy. And you’ve just got to love a background mystery that begins with, “The year,” he said, “is fifteen-hundred and ninety-one…”

Like all books in this series, Mister Fox Winter’s Tail is beautiful, fun, confusing, and leaves you feeling there are a lot more things going on than the few words and gorgeous pictures tell you (besides that pun in the title, of course!). And, while there are only a small number of pages, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this book is an epic.

*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*

  • Book Title: Mister Fox Winter’s Tail 
  • Author: Sue Vincent and Stuart France
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Publisher: Silent Eye Press (2 September 2018)
  • Length: 38 pages


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