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Literature / The Tower and the Fox

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Just like Zootopia around the American Revolution but with magic and without a rabbit

The Tower and the Fox is a 2017 fantasy alternate history novel by Tim Susman. It is part of a series consisting of.

  1. The Tower and the Fox
  2. The Demon and the Fox (2018)
  3. The War and the Fox (2019)
  4. The Revolution and the Fox (2021)

In a version of our world where magic is an accepted fact, history has gone on a few unexpected tangents, most notably the creation of human-animal hybrids known as "Calatians" and the failure of the American Revolution. In the 1810s Colonial America's one sorcerer college, Prince George's, is attacked by an unexpected enemy, killing most of the students and leaving the college desperate for new admittants.

Among the new students are one Phillip "Kip" Penfold, a fox Calatian determined to become the first Calatian sorcerer. Coppy, an otter from London who's a close friend of Kip's. And Emily Carswell, a progressively minded human woman. The three of them and the few allies they've gathered must survive the rigors of a school half-full of sorcerers who don't want them there, or worse, and attempt to discern who or what killed off their predecessors.


Contains examples of:

  • Alien Space Bats: Sorcerers have been around and drastically affecting the course of history since at least Ancient Greece. In England alone they allowed the Lancasters to win the War of the Roses, stopped the American Revolution, and conquered Louisiana from Napoleon. In addition to the creation of a new set of sapient species.
  • America Is Still a Colony: The 1783 revolution failed, largely due to England’s massive advantage in sorcery and the magic-built Road crossing the Atlantic, and the Americas are still under British rule in the 1800s. Though John Quincy Adams is still advocating for colonial rights. In The War and the Fox Kip joins a new American Revolution which succeeds.
  • Animal Eye Spy: The master sorcerers have ravens that they can see through, and speak through.
  • Arranged Marriage: Common among both humans and Calatians, the latter moreso due to the scarcity of any given species in an area and anti-miscegenation laws.
    • Kip starts the story engaged to a 14-year old vixen named Alice Cartwright, but in the first book her parents temporarily suspend the engagement citing concerns over the difficulties of married life for sorcerers. And again in the second book thanks to the trouble around Kip. Though after Alice is kidnapped by Farley, rescued by Kip, and accidentally learns to call up magic on her own, she becomes determined to marry Kip despite her parents' wishes.
    • Emily escaped an arranged marriage by manipulating her husband into having an affair and successfully filing for divorce.
  • Bittersweet Ending: To The Demon and the Fox, Coppy is dead, Malcolm is permanently blinded, and two of Kip's supposed allies among the teachers turn out to be part of a pro-Imperial cabal that attempted to destroy the college to intimidate the revolutionaries, who now know about the tower's protective spirit. On the plus side, Kip is readmitted to Prince George's and seems to be there to stay, they know who attacked the college, and Farley finally got his comeuppance.
  • Blood Magic: Calatians carry the magic that created their ancestors in their blood, which sorcerers can take from designated donors known as "calyxes" for a power boost when performing high level magic such as summoning demons. The details are deliberately kept hidden in book one, but in the first chapter of book two Kip learns that sorcerers actually drink their calyx's blood while learning to summon demons. Oddly, Calatians are unable to access their blood's magic while it's in their veins, but Kip is able to summon and bind a demon after cutting himself and drinking his own blood (after trying without bloodshed and getting cursed by the demon).
  • The Bully: Farley Broadside, when they were kids he broke Kip's limbs multiple times and (if indirectly) killed at least one of his classmates. Things only get worse when he follows him to Prince George's and learns sorcery.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Elemental spirits can be summoned, and tend to be more agreeable then demons, but they're named for elements of the periodic table rather than classical elements, i.e. phosphorous elementals instead of fire elementals.
  • Evil Mentor: Late in The Demon and the Fox it turns out that Master Windsor took Coppy on as an apprentice just to mind control him, and that he and Kip's new friend Master Albright were behind the attack on the college.
  • Fantastic Racism: While the Church of England declared them to have souls, Calatians are the target of racism from a lot of humans. Crimes against Calatians are rarely prosecuted, even murders, in London they're confined to an island in the Thames, and they can't own land, only rent it. Though they're still treated better than African slaves.
  • Genius Loci: When Kip first touches the tower he hears a voice in his head and is given a massive surge of magic. Later he discovers the journal of a 17th century sorcerer's apprentice named Peter who bound his spirit to the tower, and was history's unrecorded first Calatian sorcerer. They gradually become friends.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Calatians, a mixture of human and assorted animal species created in the 1400s by sorcerers as an external source of magic.
  • I Know Your True Name: Names are required for summoning demons, though not elementals. Towards the end of the second book Windsor and Albright attempt to torture Peter the tower spirit's name out of Kip, but he holds it back.
  • Inept Mage: Victor Adamsen knows the theory behind magic, but has little to no ability to actually use it, the only reason he stays at the college is his father's wealth.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Farley faces little to no consequences for his vicious, even bloody, bullying of Kip and Coppy in the first book, avoiding expulsion thanks to Victor's father pulling strings, but towards the end of the second book Farley loses control of a powerful demon, which turns him into a Calatian marmot. And is expelled.
  • Literal Genie: Demons tend to follow their bindings very specifically, as the group discover in the first chapter with the demon guarding the gate who'd been ordered to admit any "man" who wished to apply to the college. They get through when Kip's father asks enough questions that it runs to a sorcerer for clarification.
  • Mage Tower: The college before the attack consisted of a white stone tower surrounded by smaller buildings. By the time Kip and friends enroll the tower is all that's left, with tents in place of the outlying structures.
  • Meaningful Name: Minor character Master Splint is the college's resident expert at healing magic.
  • Monumental Damage: Fantasy monument in The War and the Fox, the Road connecting Britain and the American colonies is utterly destroyed in Kip and Cott’s duel. It was accidentally undone by Cott’s antimagic spell but since he died in the process the Revolutionaries spread the rumor that their sorcerer was responsible.
  • Mysterious Animal Senses: Played fairly realistically, foxes like Kip have really good hearing, smell, and night vision, but are nearsighted.
  • The Nose Knows: Kip's family are perfumers, taking advantage of their keen sense of smell, they even have words for specific smells. He also noted that demons prompt a similar sensation to sniffing peppermint oil.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Kip summons a demon to investigate the burnt remains of the college’s outlying buildings and orders her to report back anything unusual. At first she gives one of her usual cryptic answers, then finds a marble formed from human remains and unambiguously states “that is unusual.”
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons are summoned as servants by sorcerers, if bound properly they can be commanded to perform a variety of tasks, either visible or invisible and largely formless. If bound improperly they have a habit of cursing their summoners, ranging in severity from itchy skin to blinding and transformations from the more powerful demons. Unlike summoning elementals most sorcerers need an additional source of power to muster enough magic to bind a demon.
  • Perception Filter: Kip finds a journal written by a 17th century apprentice that renders himself unnoticed when held, a side effect of the spell the apprentice's ghost cast on himself when he bound himself to the tower. He let Kip see through it because he was the same species as himself.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Masters Argent, Windsor, Odden, and Jaeger are among the few sorcerers to give Kip and his friends a chance. In The Demon and the Fox we get Cott, Albright, and Gugin from the London college. Subverted when Windsor and Albright turn out to be behind the attack.
  • Symbolic Mutilation: In England, it's not uncommon for poachers to cut the tails off of young fox Calatians and pass them off as normal fox tails. When he was a kid, Farley once attempted to cut Kip's tail off, but was scared away when he spontaneously manifested fire magic. In The Demon and the Fox, after they're both expelled, Farley gets Kip with a binding spell and actually does cut off his tail, fortunately Master Splint is able to reattach it.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: The Penfolds are ostracized by most of the rest of the New Cambridge Calatian community after Kip enrolls, for fear of reprisal for one of their number "reaching above his station". Leading to Kip's parents moving to Georgia, and Alice's parents breaking off her engagement to him, twice.

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