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Foxfire, by Barbara Campbell
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW
Published: 2009
Review Posted: 6/6/2013
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Foxfire, by Barbara Campbell

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

Foxfire is the third book in Barbara Campbell's Trickster's Game trilogy, the first two books being Heartwood and Bloodstone. I've read all three and obviously liked them enough to buy all three. I think FOXFIRE was a fitting -- and completely unexpected -- ending to the series.

The reason the series was intriguing to me at the beginning was because of the setting. It's set during prehistoric times, with the main characters part of a tribal society that believes in gods controlling the world around them and in the books those gods are real and interact in a very personal way with them. The most obvious god dealing with the main characters is the Trickster god, Fellgair, who appears to the tribes in the shape of a man/fox. In the first two books, Fellgair interceded in the main family's behalf, helping them during harsh or painful moments . . . but always at a cost. In Bloodstone, Fellgair made Griane, the mother, choose between helping her husband, Darak, or her son, Keirith. In exchange, Fellgair would receive one day and night with Griane.

That night produced a child, Rigat, a mortal boy who wields god-like powers, magic far greater than anything Keirith wielded in the second book. Foxfire is the story of Rigat and the rest of his family, how he handles those godlike powers, how he interacts with his family once it is revealed that he is, indeed, the son of a god and not the son of Darak (this is a mystery at the beginning of the book, but it is revealed within the first 100 pages of the book as well as the back cover, so I don't consider it a spoiler), and how his powers and family will affect the world around him. For the tribal society of Darak, Griane, and their family is being threatened by the encroachment of a much more violent and "modern" group of invaders called the Zherosi. We met the Zherosi in Bloodstone during Keirith's story and Foxfire is tied to Bloodstone a great deal, although I would say you can read FOXFIRE without having read the previous books. The Zherosi are intent on cutting down the forests that the tribes consider sacred to fuel their ever-growing society, and in a sense FOXFIRE is also about this insidious spread of "modern" culture and how it destroys the cultures of the past... and in the process destroys those cultures' gods.

But the main reason I recommend these books is because of the family--Darak, Griane, Faelia, Keirith, Rigat, Callum, and to a great extent, Fellgair. Their relationships and interactions with each other are what kept me interested in the books. The dealings with Fellgair, a god, and his interest in their family drive the books forward. The violent meeting of the tribes with the Zherosi and the differences and similarities between their cultures were also intensely interesting to me. When I began reading FOXFIRE, I wondered how Barbara Campbell was going to bring the series to a satisfying conclusion, and I have to say that what she did, and how she brought about that ending, were completely unexpected and at the same time completely fitting. How she reconciled a more technologically advanced society clashing with the tribal society was absolutely perfect. And how she used the god-like--and yet still limited and mortal--powers wielded by Rigat to bring about the changes needed in the family and the tribe was unexpected. But one of the most interesting things is how Fellgair's story intertwines with the family and tribe. He is not simply a god interceding . . . and perhaps interfering . . . in their lives. In this third book, his story--no, his LIFE--becomes an integral part of the family and tribe itself. It's something I've never seen done with a god figure before in a book and it is utterly perfect.

There are a few minor drawbacks in the book. I thought it took quite a while for the true story to get started, for example. Nearly 200 pages. This is all necessary setup for what is to come, and I kept reading because I knew that Barbara Campbell would deliver a great story in the end. She needed those pages to introduce us to Rigat and develop his relationship to the rest of the family and Fellgair, since that is what is so crucial to the rest of the book. I found myself riveted to the large section of the book that dealt with Rigat's association to the Zherosi, but this sort of vanishes toward the end of the book and I wish there'd been more dealing with that. (The ending deals mostly with Rigat, the family, and the tribe, the Zherosi acting as more of a catalyst for those events.) But as I said, these are minor quibbles, the latter occurring mostly because I was so interested in the Zherosi society and simply wanted to see more of it and how it was affected by this family.

So, in summary: I found myself crying at points in this book. There are certain events that have to happen when drawing a series to a conclusion, and some of those events are heartbreaking, even if they are necessary. Barbara Campbell handles those events extremely well. But there are also moments of great joy. At the end, when I closed the book, I was satisfied with not only the book, but the entire series. Barbara Campbell is a great writer, who does not write the typical epic fantasy, although these books are epic in nature. They may deal with one family, and mostly one god, but the actions of this one family are affecting the entire world as these people perceive that world. I'm sad that the series has ended and that we won't be seeing more of Keirith and Darak and Fellgair and the rest in the future, but I loved the books. Bloodstone was my favorite in the series, but Foxfire is a close second, and only because Bloodstone dealt more with the Zherosi culture (which I've already said I was intensely interested in).

I highly recommend these books and am disappointed that they did not receive more attention by the SF&F community when they originally hit the shelf. Check them out. They're original, clever, and just downright good reading.
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