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Erica’s Pick of the Week: The Fox Wife

The Fox Wife book cover
Available February 13, 2024

While Yangsze Choo’s The Fox Wife is definitely historical fiction – set largely in Manchuria in the early 1900s – it also weaves elements of mystery and folklore into an evocative, compelling, and wholly original story.

In the last days of the Qing Dynasty, Snow is on the hunt for the man who killed her daughter. She craves revenge at any cost, including her own salvation. Her pursuit takes her from China to Japan and back again, with only her native cunning and beauty to help her succeed. Given that Snow is a fox spirit who can take on human form, she has ample amounts of both, though the world isn’t particularly kind to foxes or women.

Meanwhile, Bao, a decidedly human private detective, is searching for the identity of a courtesan found dead in an alley. Without a name, the woman’s spirit cannot rest, and Bao is too kind-hearted to let that happen. His own gift – the ability to hear when someone lies – is uniquely suited to the task. Every lead reveals a connection to fox spirits, fueling a fascination that began in childhood and bringing him ever-closer to Snow.

As the two weave in and out of each other’s lives, their pasts are revealed, along with so many unexpected connections that even the characters recognize fate in action. We see the root of Bao’s fox obsession and how his gift for discerning truth has shaped his life; we trace Snow’s journey to find her daughter’s killer and witness her grief. And all along, the tension grows – will Snow get her revenge, even though taking it will destroy her? Can Bao, who may be at the end of his own life – help the dead girl find peace?

Snow is as wry and clever and impulsive as you would expect a fox spirit to be, but she’s also a woman wracked with loss; her grief is vividly, viscerally rendered. Bao is both dogged in his pursuit of the truth and open to a world beyond what he sees; he has been softened by loss rather than embittered. Whether these two will survive, let alone find what they are seeking, makes for a compelling read.

In The Fox Wife, Yangsze Choo masterfully pairs Chinese folklore with a heartfelt exploration of how love and grief can transform a life. It’s an excellent choice for fans of historical fiction, folklore, and lyrical writing.

Yangsze Choo photo

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