Vixen, by Sarah Catherine Muth – Review

I stumbled across this self-published book quite by accident. I was at a coffee shop called TeaLoha and on the bulletin board next to the restrooms there was a business card advertising this book. That caught my attention, and giving the author props for this advertising helping me stomach the $24 including shipping costs to purchase it from Amazon. That being said, this book is a whopping 454 pages, so it will keep you busy for awhile.

The author’s description on Amazon is as follows:

In a post-war world, Sierra Maurell and her three fox attribute brothers must use their cunning to endure the cold racism of the pure-DNA human race. When a new desegregation law forces Sierra to spend her last year of high school at a formerly human-only institution, racial antagonism compels her to lead her fellow half-breeds towards equality. But one human refuses to treat half-breeds as less than human, and their meeting creates a new line of fate which might change Sierra’s world forever.

Okay, so immediately this book is not my typical genre that I would gravitate to in a bookstore. The description and cover of the book screams “Furry” and highschool romance, and anything to do with a highschool romance between two people of different “species” if you will, suggests a strong Twilight influence, a notion that is quite sad and false in many cases. Highschool romance was not invented by Stephanie Meyer, but she certainly did ruin it for many, including myself, and it makes me wary to read anything which might have similar themes. The Furry culture has never interested me either, but I’ve been open to new genre’s before and have been pleasantly surprised (The Eggless Club), so I decided to be completely open-minded about this book and give it a shot.

The premise of the book surrounds a world where pure-humans and half-breeds dwell together in a very politically fragile system. Pure-humans are of course just humans, and half-breeds are humans with DNA mixed with animal DNA. Humans think half-breeds are beneath them and they are very often mistreated, have lousy jobs if any, and are not afforded the same quality benefits or schooling. In some decades past, there was a war between humans and half-breeds, and half-breeds obviously lost, or a cease-fire was met, or something, it was not fully explained. It was recent enough however that the main character, a half-breed fox girl named Sierra, remembers her father fighting in the war. Considering that she is only 17/18-ish, this is pretty recent. The author literally spends no more than 3 sentences explaining why there are half-breeds, which I found somewhat disappointing. The whole book I was wondering why this had occurred, and finally I was afforded a vague explanation with no real details or insight that left me unsatisfied and wondering if it was a hurried input because she realized that she needed something in there to quell the curiosity. Perhaps she will go into more detail about the origins of half-breeds if she writes a second book.

There were a lot of themes I really appreciated in this book. Though it was half-humans and pure humans, rather than whites and blacks and hispanics etc, the strained relationship between the two races translated extremely well into real world racial problems every country currently faces in some form or fashion. I thought Sarah did an excellent job portraying the hatred and emotions between both groups, as well as the dialogue throughout. Outside the school scene, Sierra’s brothers, Harold, Wade, and Eisen all have jobs and there is a constant wariness that they must be very careful not to give their employers incentive to be fired, since they know because of their race that they are under more scrutiny than pure humans, and jobs which will even hire them are extremely difficult to come by.

The first half of the book deals with these issues pretty well, and I did find it interesting to read. The second half of the book though is significantly different. Sierra meets her love interest, Duncan, in the first half and by the second half they are together as we expected. Her love interest has a special secret that he reveals to her and of course it’s something world shaking. From here is where the Twilight saga begins. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who may choose to read this book so I won’t tell what the secret is, but I will say that it really diminished the significance of the racial themes in the book for me. I don’t know what the original intent of Sarah Muth was for this book, but reading the first half I was genuinely enthralled by how insightful the racial struggles were, and once she reveals Sierra’s love interest’s big secret, the opportunity vanishes somehow to continue that racial struggle from a romantic level.

I was raised in the southern United States. Racism is rampant everywhere there and it’s truly disgusting. Whites dating blacks is still frowned upon and I’ve heard the most ridiculous nonsense come out of “respectible” people’s mouths about how it is wrong, evil, and sacriledge to mix races and other absolute trash and lies surrounding the purity and innocence of humans falling in love with other humans. Once Duncan’s secret is revealed the opportunity to expound on this common and still controversial aspect of racism which still runs rampant in today’s day and age vanishes, even though she tries to keep it alive, and I was truly disappointed. But I digress. The secret does introduce opportunities for other interesting plot twists, even if it squashes this one.

From this point on though, it is literally a sappy highschool love story. Of course, there is a love triangle introduced which thankfully does not go on forever as it did in Twilight. The other love interest is a half-breed, and she entertains the idea because of this reason as well as because her friends are pressuring her to give him a shot. I did appreciate how Sarah described Sierra’s emotions and feelings about it. Having been in a similar situation before, I appreciated how accurate Sierra’s feelings were and it made this triangle thing interesting, as I’m sure anyone who has ever been in a similar situation can as well.

The book ends setting up quite well for a second book. I won’t spoil anything here but there is definitely enough content to keep readers interested for a second book.

There are a few inconsistencies I noted in the book. One was the comment she added in about half-breeds being unable to pass their animal attributes onto their children. The exact comment when referring to a mixed breed couple, a bear boy and a poodle girl, was “At least our animal DNA doesn’t really blend into our reproduction processes…that would be an odd mix”. I found this extremely contradictory, since half-breeds are born half-breeds and this does in fact suggest that their attributes pass on to their kids. So if bear boy and poodle girl have a kid, it will be human? or….????? This is definitely confusing and I feel as though this may have been an earlier idea that somehow escaped revision. Most of the families in the book exhibit a particular type of animal DNA, she and her brothers are all part fox, and her best friend’s family are all part cat. But there is a family with mixed animal DNA that does not fit this mold, one sister exhibits parrot DNA, the other some type of reptile, and the brother mentioned very briefly I believe has wolf DNA. So this is also somewhat confusing. Sarah Muth does not go into detail why this family exhibits different DNA among its members, nor why others are all the same type of animal, and none of this is explained at all by the comment that animal DNA doesn’t really blend into the reproductive processes. But hopefully this will be ironed out in book 2.

One thing I found absolutely annoying was every single piece of technology was SMARTinsertdevicehere. SMARTcall for cell phone, SMARTvision for TV, SMARTnote for computer. I think there were other examples but I forgot them. Literally every single thing was a SMARTsomething or other and this was incredibly annoying. One thing was interesting about this though, every SMARTwhatever was government issued which leads me to think that either Sarah Muth is low-key lashing out against this day and age’s explosion of smart devices and trying to attune readers to the fact that our own very real devices are probably being monitored, OR, she is advocating the use of these devices because it seems that everything in our real world labelled “smart” is somehow associated with energy efficiency. Either way, the real intent is unclear, but whichever it was, she was definitely seeming to advocate for one of these opinions, and if you own anything that is a SMARTblank, you’ll want to bust it with a hammer when you’re done with this book.

Another obvious contradiction in the book was the fact that half-breeds do not wear cologne or other artificial scents, and it is one of the ways that half-breeds can always tell the difference between humans and half-breeds whose animal DNA is not as prominent as others. This idea is used frequently throughout the book in several key plot twists. But then somewhere towards the end her best friend who is a cat girl was wearing rose scented perfume. Probably just an oversight, but it made me squint a little.

All in all I enjoyed the book. It is written in first person, which is also not my favorite, but it worked out pretty well. The themes in the book are very well done I think, and though it did exube a little Twilight-ness towards the later half it was still a good read. The editing was also very well done, except for the slight oversights I have already mentioned. But there were no spelling errors that I noticed and maybe only once or twice did I come across a double word oopsie, and it did not take away from the book’s story at all. Honestly though, nearly every book I have read from University published textbooks to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series has had numerous spelling or grammatical errors in it. For this being a self-published book, I thought Sarah Muth did an absolute fantastic job with the editing aspect.

I do recommend this book. I think the Furry culture will find this to be an absolute favorite because it definitely delves into the world of mixed DNA people and it is visually interesting trying to wrap your brain around what these characters look like. And honestly, anyone who doesn’t live underneath a rock can appreciate the very well done racial struggles of the half-breed race in this book. I will read book 2 when it comes out, as the ending of this one did leave my mouth open, and I hope you will also give this book a read.

This book is available on Amazon for $15.99 and $3.00 for Kindle can be purchased through the link below! Please share or comment if you wish!

Vixen: A Fox and Hound Novel

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Vixen, by Sarah Catherine Muth – Review”

  1. A word from the author – Hello! It’s actually pretty cool to notice that all my business card placing and advertising did actually go somewhere. I didn’t expect it did. (Self-publishing is not easy, and I haven’t had other writers around me too much to let me know how it would work.) I’m glad you enjoyed my book, mostly, and I think it’s cool that you wrote such a long review. I actually remember putting that business card up, which is pretty hilarious considering how little I remember about those hectic days. πŸ™‚

    I’m going to start by saying that, since the book was self-published, I have noticed certain flaws and inconsistencies that I’m correcting in a second edition. This second edition will have deleted scenes explaining the half-breed issue more – this was highly and frequently requested of me even though I didn’t want the focus of the book to be on the war and the past – and other numerous minute errors – like the perfume incident – corrected. Any reviews are helpful in that regard, so thanks.

    Ima start with saying that the SMART everything is supposed to be annoying. I was annoyed writing the damn word a thousand times. So it’s good you felt irritated by that. πŸ™‚

    Vixen is a sappy high school love story, true. I included more serious issues, but it boils down to that. It was a lot of fun to write and edit – although at times the editing was eye-crossingly terrible to enforce – and while this book is not typically my style of story, it just sort of happened and I’m glad it did.) A lot of characters and situations in the book are based off of my life and people I know, but I tried to keep a sort of fantastical element in there as well.

    Real quick explanation of the passing on of half-breed DNA: I probably didn’t explain it that well, and I’ll be fixing that in both books, but what I meant to say was that while some half-breeds will pass on their DNA to their offspring, it’s a sort of freakish mutation, so cat half-breed parents will not necessarily in every case have half-breed kids. It’s more likely, especially if they’re both cat, but it’s not a sure thing. Also, if a bear half-breed and a poodle half-breed were to…well, breed…their kid wouldn’t be some weird poodle/bear mix. It would have either the bear DNA or the poodle DNA as far as the animal aspect though. (Also, this book is fiction. I’m not a DNA expert, so in this universe some of that information might be totally off the wall, but for the sake of the storyline it works out just fine there. πŸ™‚ )

    Seriously, thanks for the review and saying the editing of the book was great. It’s awesome to know that the work put into this book is paying off. πŸ™‚

    Sarah C. Labadie (I got married, so it’s not Muth anymore. πŸ™‚ )

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    1. ^^apparently I can no longer type. I meant “cat half-breed parents will not necessarily in every case have half-breed cat children. they will always be half-breed, and usually of the cat variety, but there is some allowance for other mutations.”

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    2. Great to get feedback from you! Apologies for the late response but I’ve had to put this site on hold for a bit for school. Please let me know when the second book is published, inconsistencies aside, your world is unique which I enjoyed and coupled with that cliffhanger I am awaiting the second book with great interest!

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