A Fox Snare book review was bound to be bittersweet because we must say goodbye to Min, Sebin, Haneul, and Jun now that the Thousand Worlds series by Yoon Ha Lee has concluded.
The Thousand Worlds series began back in 2019 with Dragon Pearl. Not only did this book bring us a Korean mythology-infused sci-fi story, but it was also part of what I consider the inaugural class of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, only third in line after Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi and The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes.
As such, this series remains one of the pillars of this imprint, and so it feels bittersweet to say goodbye. There’s been a lot of that going around lately, in fact. The Aru Shah series was done and dusted in 2022, and though Chokshi wrote a book focused on Filipino mythology, The Spirit Glass, it is currently being touted as a standalone. Meanwhile, The Storm Runner concluded in 2021, and its spinoff duology just wrapped up this month with Dawn of the Jaguar.
While there are plenty of amazing books coming out of Rick Riordan Presents over the next few years, I can’t help but feel a little sad that we’re seeing the conclusion of the Thousand Worlds trilogy with Fox Snare.
The book gives us POV chapters from both Min, star of Dragon Pearl, and Sebin, star of Tiger Honor. While Min made an appearance in the latter, Fox Snare shares its time between the two of them, building off of the events of the other two books. Though she doesn’t get her own chapters, Haneul, the dragon spirit, is also an important part of this installment.
Fox Snare follows this trio (plus Min’s ghostly brother Jun) as they become part of the peace talks between the Thousand Worlds and the Sun Clans, who have been at odds for generations. There are plenty of people who want to see this conflict put behind them, and plenty that just can’t let go.
It’s the latter type of person that puts our heroes in a precarious position. An attack at the space station hosting the peace talks forces Min, Sebin, Haneul, and Jun into an escape pod destined for the planet below—Jasujeong. Not only will these kids have to survive on an alien planet, but they’ll need to find a way to get to an ancient ship that crash-landed there before the saboteur does, or else risk their enemies getting hands on ancient and dangerous technology.
If you enjoyed Dragon Pearl and/or Tiger Honor, I feel as though Fox Snare will be no different, as it brings both worlds together. Min has matured so much since we first met her, and I love watching her do right by her friends, even when her instincts tell her that manipulating them would be easier and guarantee the outcome she’s hoping for. Fighting against her fox spirit nature is no easy task, but she recognizes the importance of consent and true friendship. And at the end of the day, that’s what will save them all.
Meanwhile, Sebin, who has always known the type of person they are, must combat the reputation their family has garnered after the attempted hijacking in the previous book. Not only does Sebin need to continue to prove themselves as a cadet, but they hold the fate of all tiger spirits in their hands (er, paws?). If they fail in their mission to keep the peace, the Thousand Worlds can blame Sebin’s family for being rotten. But if they succeed, then faith will be restored in all tiger spirits. I love that Lee doesn’t shy away from talking about such political implications even though this book is meant for a middle grade audience.
The third part of this trifecta is with Haneul, who has become an apprentice to one of the members of the Dragon Council. Tensions are high between all three characters because they have a history of being both friends and enemies. Where Haneul is loyal to her people, Min can’t understand why the Dragon Council refused to terraform her home planet. This generates an interesting conversation about who “deserves” terraforming and which planets should be first in line. It’s easy to see where both Haneul and Min are coming from, and there does not appear to be an easy solution to this problem—as is true in many real world examples.
In fact, so much of Fox Snare can be described in that way. Yoon Ha Lee manages to boil complicated dichotomies down into their simplest parts without losing the nuance found on both sides. This is made even more obvious when you realize that the Thousand Worlds represents Korea of the future, while the Sun Clans represents Japan. Their conflict goes back generations, and yet Yoon Ha Lee puts the humanity of each first without shying away from the atrocities of the past.
As always, this Fox Snare book review will remain spoiler-free, but I’d be remiss not to talk about the ending of this trilogy in, at least, vague terms. After everything these characters have been through, I feel as though they got the conclusion they deserved, which was both satisfactory and open-ended. It’s my sincere hope that we’ll get more stories set in the Thousand Worlds universe, as I still have so many questions, but if Fox Snare is truly the end, it’s one that managed to find exactly the right note to finish on.
From start to finish, the Thousand Worlds series has been a unique blend of Korean mythology and science-fiction, set in a vast and colorful world that’s approachable for both kids and adults.
‘Fox Snare’ by Yoon Ha Lee released on October 17, 2023
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