eBook Review: Joshua Cole’s The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong
I love a good heist story, and I love crazy-ass wuxia fantasy.
So, when I found out about Joshua Cole’s The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong, I knew I had to read it. Bonus points that the author’s also a poster on RPG.net’s forums, which are my go-to online hangout these days, but I digress.
Funnily enough, when it comes to self publishing, I’ve found that the various ebooks I’ve read are better written and more enjoyable than some of the hardcopy self published books I’ve picked up over the years. Then again, maybe I’m just more forgiving to something I haven’t spent as much money on.
The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong centers around Sheung Hsien, a fox-spirit (who, naturally, is also the world’s greatest thief). On the eve of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, it falls on Hsien to steal the most powerful magical treasure from the most secure vault in all of Hong Kong, avoiding both the dangerous and inhuman fae nobility and an evil communist sorcerer. Hsien recruits an oddball bunch of misfits to help her out, including a forger, a somewhat immortal getaway driver, one of her fox-spirit nieces (who happens to be a hacker), and the last dragon in Hong Kong (who should probably be played by Donnie Yen if they ever made a movie).
The ensuing scheme has all the requisite twists and turns and betrayals one can expect from a good heist story. While the plot isn’t as complicated as other, more intricate heist stories, it still works well enough. All Cole really needs is a framework on which to hang a bunch of snappy dialogue and some crazy-ass fight scenes, both things he excels at.
The real draw here is the way Cole blends different cultures and mythologies. Basically, each country is tied into their own flavor of supernatural. Britain (and by extent, all its colonial holdings) is tied into faerie, the USA’s spirit world is under the control of the Illuminati, while Mao wiped out China’s spiritual population during his rise to power.
It’s a lot to keep track of, which is part of the fun. Still, the way all this stuff is so casually bandied about, it might throw off someone who’s not as familiar with the various genres and folklores Cole mashes together. On the flipside, if you are already familiar with this kind of stuff, the book comes off as a genuine delight– and an original one, to boot. I’m not saying you need to do homework in order for The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong to make sense, but it definitely helps if you’re genre aware.
Basically, if the phrase “Ocean’s Eleven as directed by Tsui Hark” gets you excited, The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong is well worth a read. And if not, well, go watch Ocean’s Eleven, then go watch a Tsui Hark movie (Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame is pretty solid, and on Netflix!) and then go read The Fox Who Stole Hong Kong.
I’ll even provide an amazon linky. That’s how much I liked this book.