F.O.X.E.S by M.A. Bennett

Are there any books you are eagerly awaiting publication? For me, F.O.X.E.S was high on that list for me. I had it pre-ordered for months and then when an opportunity to join the blog tour arose, I jumped at the chance.

Please be warned, the book summary contains spoilers for the previous two books.

Greer has just recovered from her terrifying experience during the STAGS play. Was she really put on trial by the sinister Dark Order of the Grand Stag? Or was it purely her overheated imagination?
The imprint of an ‘M’ for murderer that has appeared on her thumb, though, is puzzling but incomplete evidence . . .
Meanwhile Ty is staying on at Longcross Manor and Greer, Nel and Shafeen are increasingly worried for her safety. When Ty
sends a cryptic message directing them to Cumberland Place, the de Warlencourts’ palatial home in London, they decide to risk a visit.
There they meet Henry’s grieving parents, Rollo and Caro. Rollo is arrogant, entitled and not overly grieving. Caro, however, while superficially charming, is clearly pushed to the brink of madness by Henry’s death, insisting that Henry is still alive. Which is clearly impossible . . . but Greer has her own troubling doubts about Henry’s death which make it hard to dismiss Caro completely . . .
Can Greer, Shafeen and Nel work out what Rollo de Warlencourt is planning for his deadly Boxing Day Hunt at Longcross in time to save Ty – who has now gone silent? Or will history horribly repeat itself?
A thrilling, richly complex instalment in the STAGS series

F.O.X.E.S delves deeper into the privileged world set up in the previous two books, highlighting the seedy underworld of our elitist hierarchy.

Opening up where the second book ended, the reader is re-introduced to Greer as she struggles to come to terms with her ‘trial’ and whether her previous interactions were real. Her closest friends, Shafeen and Nel, seemingly question her version of events and as a reader, we are also left wondering how reliable Greer’s recollections are. They seem far-fetched; a trial in front of a school audience and a visit from someone who has been dead for two books!

From previous events, we know that Greer is a strong-willed determined individual and this is once again brought to the forefront throughout the novel. She is the driving force behind the sometimes questionable actions of the groups and is utlimately once again the heroine of the book.

I liked how the character of Shafeen was developed in this instalment. We start to see how he could potentially fit into the elitist surroundings he finds himself in and this often left me wondering whether he was going to go over to the dark side.

Similar to the previous books, the ending just leaves you wanting more. At one point, I thought I had worked out what was going to happen but then this was literally blown apart at the end! I am definitely intrigued to see where the next instalment will take us after this books events and character development.

One of my favourite elements of the series is how Bennett weaves in historical fact to show how it has impacted on modern day living. History is hugely important to the S.T.A.G.S group and is shown through Rollo de Walencourt consistently addressing Shafeen by his father’s name. The story explores the changes that the order refuse to accept and how one man can change the way of the law.
As Bennett interweaves the historical nature of the book, similar to D.O.G.S, it allows the reader to connect on a 21st Century level. The idea that a patriarchy such as S.T.A.G.S could exist seems abhorrent but by referencing staples of our current society, such as the House of Lords, it reinforces that elitist privilege, racism and traditions that are still apparent throughout the UK.
By using a YA novel to showcase these themes, it allows history and current affairs to be accessible to a younger generation.

F.O.X.E.S, along with its predecessors, acts as a scathing social commentary on our current society, reminiscent of Ben Johnson’s renaissance writings.

A huge thank you to Hot Key Books for my gifted copy and to read more insights into the book, check out the other participants on the blog tour:

As F.O.X.E.S is part of a trilogy, I felt it only right to also share some thoughts on the first two instalments.

S.T.A.G.S

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.
To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ – an invitation to spend the half-term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S.
Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three blood sports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

I absolutely loved the first book, S.T.A.G.S.
As soon as I read the tagline and the comment that it was a new ‘Hunger Games,’ I was hooked: Nine students. Three blood sports. One deadly weekend.
When I first read the book, I classed it as one of the best YA books I had read in a long time and this is something I maintain.
Greer is a strong female protagonist who subverts the idea of a young girl who needs a big strong man to rely on. Even during her lustful thoughts about Henry, she maintains her dignity and ultimately has more authority than her male counterparts.
The narrative is fast-paced, with a thrilling and twisted concept. Exploring the sensitive teenage themes of love, school and the ability to fit in, S.T.A.G.S highlights the importance of friendship and remaining true to yourself whilst surrounded by a privileged, elitist boarding school.

D.O.G.S


When something is dead, it’s supposed to stay dead, right?
After the dramatic events of the last few weeks, Greer Macdonald is trying to concentrate on her A levels. Stuck for a play to direct for her drama exam, she gets help from an unexpected quarter . . .
A priceless lost play, buried by time, is pushed under her door. It is Ben Jonson’s The Isle of Dogs, a play considered so dangerous in Elizabethan times that every copy was burned . . . except one. As the students begin to rehearse, events become increasingly dark and strange, and they lead Greer back to where she never thought she would return – Longcross Hall.
There she discovers that not only is the Order of the Stag alive and well, but that a ghost from the past might be too . . .

Following on from S.T.A.G.S, the second instalment did not disappoint.
By adding the historical element of the play, Isle of Dogs, Bennett adds another layer to the narrative. Not only does she continue to explore the idea of elitism, but she also begins to weave in the idea of the ‘forbidden fruit.’
Once again Greer needs to come up trumps as she searches for the lost play. Her character development is slightly slower in this book and I did find myself getting slightly annoyed with her at times especally with her relationship with Shafeen and her almost obsession with Henry.
I loved the introduction of the twins, Cassandra and Louis, who play the young elitist role perfectly. Standing in their cousin Henry’s shadows, we see them navigate their way up the hierachy and assert their dominance.
Although not as fast paced as S.T.A.G.S, I liked the little touch of it being written in five acts, resonant of a Shakespearean play where the action happens in the later acts, culminating in a fantastic climax.

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