Debut: the day every young gentleperson of age gathers to receive their Spirit Blessing and shift for the first time into their second form.
Except for those who don't.
Beatrice's worst fear is to be one of the unlucky few trapped perpetually in a human body, cut off from the magic of the spirits and unfit for any respectable pack or pride. But when the time comes to face her fear, the outcome is one she never could have imagined.
Be warned, this story is some highly experimental fluff—an unapologetically girly, unrelentingly bisexual, Regency/Victorian-ish fantasy mish-mash. It does have a dark side, though, so don’t come in expecting all sunshine and roses. Worthy of note, given the reputation of shifter stories: there will be no explicit sex in this tale. There will, however, be lots of polyamorous romance, necromancy, portal magic, capricious spirits, elemental mages, an unconventional take on shifters and a highly ordered society built around their existence.
Note: This story is currently in the process of receiving a partially illustrated rewrite, and will continue forward in that form. This version will remain here for posterity and so that I can refer back to all of my readers’ wonderful feedback
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This belongs on Amazon and as an indie bookshop darling. Foxstone is unlike just about everything I've seen on RR so far and it stands out in the best ways. It's the story of a magical 19th century-ish world where polyamory and bisexuality are the norm, and for that alone it would have me. Most people, high society at least, can shapeshift into one of seven different animals, each with their own special powers and qualities. Our story opens on a young woman coming of age and going through her first transformation - an event that goes horribly right.
Grammar: Let's get this out of the way first. I noticed zero problems with it, and sentences/sentence structures were not only correct, but formal. The author uses an older fashioned style of prose and nails it.
Style: The prose is honesty pretty. It's actively enjoyable to read, and Kittra manages to weave in personality, action, and all five senses masterfully until the prose is rich and textured. Some people might be put off by the formal language used, but once you fall into it it's comfortable and welcoming and just well done.
Character: Being a polyamorous romance, there are a number of characters who are developed fairly slowly, and that's not a bad thing. Rather than overwhelming us with too many new characters too fast, we get little glimpses that fill out each character as we go, and most of them are well defined and interesting. Each glimpse actively makes me want to know more about them, and most importantly, they fit together well.
Story: The only minor gripe I have is with the presentation with the story. Another review says there isn't really enough setup for the payoffs and I kind of agree. Information about the world is slowly sprinkled throughout the story in a way that draws you in and makes you ask more and more questions, but the answers to those questions are a little slow in coming for my liking. In my opinion, a couple of minor info dumps or on the nose conversations between characters wouldn't ruin the tone or pacing. It's still very much enjoyable but it's the one area I sometimes found myself slowing down and trying to think if I forgot something or if it just hasn't been featured enough yet.
Overall: This has been a very enjoyable read and seeing that Kittra has a bunch of stories has me giddy to go through them all and take notes to pretty up my own prose some. There's good creativity and attention to detail here, and vibrant characters. Just give it 4-5 chapters and you might fall in love too.
A magnificent effort, stylistically. The story crafted isn't that, really. Things just happen without being set up, there are no stakes set up to heighten the impact of turns the narrative takes.
Direct dialogue is kept out of the text, and not replaced with anything it feels like. (Internal monologue or the like.) The text is elaborate for the sake of it- failing to connect the protagonist to the world.
Speaking of the world- I found the way completely new concepts would get introduced in the middle of a scene a fair bit jarring.
There is little lead-in to scenes and emotional moments. I recognize that I am not the target audience here—it may just be that—but I don't feel like I know who the protagonist is and I wasn't made to care about her.
I could probably write more, but I don't want to make an arse out of myself by overanalysing an experiment not meant for me. I probably sound way too gruff already.
On the plot of the first 4 chapters, and why things don't work:
That Beatrice shifts to a fox and not a wolf (or other things) has no impact on the reader because things only get explained to us afterwards. You need to set up the stakes first, have it be clear that she could stay with her wonderful family who she loves very much if her destiny allows for it.
Establish the spirit system beforehand. So that it is clear how someone without peers is going to fare. Have other options clarified also, that way you could establish the society they live in, maybe.
This way, when she shifts to fox, it hits way harder. Not even by writing it more dramatically, but simply because the setup is there.
On the cover art:
I read in your profile that you do the cover and all other art yourself- and I absolutely love all of them! The cover looks stunning!
To offer points of critique: I may have experimented with a leading “F” the same size as the rest of the title line. I also can't quite figure out what's going on with the hair, like, is the image worked on that way to fill space there, or? It doesn't seem like coiffure to me.
Also, the general fade from person to forest is great conceptually and works well for the overall image, the way her (right) arm disappears is a little weird, though. I also am of two minds about how the trees overlap with her. They are noticeable almost excursively on her body and I am not sure that was the way. I recognize that having a forest below the stylisation of the wolf might crowd the image—make things seem too busy—but I'd wager that with the right sort of contrast and colours that would have been possible.
Also, I can't draw; I don't usually review imagery, and have never shown a particular talent for doing so- so, take all of this with a tablespoon of salt.
To be honest, just the bisexual MC with love interests of both genders and polyamory would have probably gotten me. There aren't many stories like that around. However, this story has a lot more to offer than that.
The style is very on point, and the grammar very good. No complaints there.
I find the worldbuilding very interesting. A society where polyamory/polygamy is the norm, and same-sex relationships apparently totally normal as well. The author still manages to give it a strong 18th/19th century vibe (a time period not exactly known as liberal in regards to sexuality or relationships, from our perspective). The magic is great, as well. I don't want to spoil too much, but there seem to be different types, and it relates to the kind of shifter people are.
The storyline itself is pretty fast-paced, or at least it seemed like that to me. It still takes its time to flesh out its characters, but things are happening. Expect a twist and turn in every chapter (the author does have a tendency to end chapters on cliffhangers). It's a story focused on the relationships between the characters, though.
The characters all seem believable to me, and they have depth. Especially the important ones our heroine meets in her new home. Personally, I love Darcy (she kind of struck me in the beginning like one of those typical male leads in some romance books, except she's actually female. And while how she acts is somewhat frustrating/annoying at first, later events just make her a really interesting character). I'm sure other people will have different favorites, and there's definitely material for readers who like shipping here. To be honest, the only aspect I personally disliked was the MC at times. But she is the MC and clearly going to undergo character growth. There's already been hints of it and she's had a few good moments.
Overall, I'm excited to see where this goes. I recommend this to anyone looking for a character-focused steampunk/Victorian fantasy.
Have I mentioned there are some shifter kinds you don't see that much? Plus, fox shifters. I rest my case.
So, normally I would not give a review after only a few chapters like this since it is really still at the premise-building stage of the story, but it is quite well written, and a kind of 'old english' style that is quite rare on RR, so I would like to offer the author some encouragement.
Foxstone seems quite heavily inspired by the likes of 'pride and predjudice', at least as far as social setting etc. go. (I hope it will not take inspiration from 'wuthering heights' though, ugh). The english is both very good and consistent, so a definite plus for that. The story so far reminds me a bit of twilight kingdom, the protagonist gains some kind of reviled ability/form with far reaching social implications, and a complex history that so far has just been hinted at. This looks like a good bit of foreshadowing with enough details for the moment. I think the book has potential, and will keep reading to see where it goes. I will probably update this review at some point once there are a dozen or so chapters out.
Love the story, the vibe, the language, the consistency, and, most importantly, the em dashes.
No but seriously there's an em dash every two seconds so prepare your em dash sword.
Sides from that, yeah read it. Read read read read read read reeeeeead it.
And remember, reviews must be 50 words long.
The story concept itself was very interesting, but with no background setup I haven't felt like any event has had any impact.
Events which feel like they are having large impact on the story take place and are then explained afterwards, and this takes away a lot of emotion that these events should have for me as a reader.
I very often found myself rereading a scene that had its explanation after because it's hard to understand the context while reading something when you haven't yet gotten it.
I feel that with how well written and thought out the story is if I could pull myself past these details it would be enjoyable for myself.