In the far, far future, humanity not only has pulled itself from the brink of planetary collapse but has even managed to create a utopian society where the Earth is honored, and inclusion and diversity are celebrated. The poisons of the Industrial Age have been eradicated, solar power has replaced fossil fuels, and the Order of the Vengeful Wild punishes resource hoarders and energy criminals. Into this world the singer Orfeus (she/her) finds herself the target of the Order—specifically, of the Wolf, the preeminent bounty hunter of the Order. When the Elders—near-immortal preservers of all the old lore deemed worth saving—can provide Orfeus with no clear reasons why the Wolf should be hunting her, she makes the ultimate gamble and joins the Order itself in order to learn who placed the contract on her, and why.
Rem Wigmore’s novel Foxhunt is a delightful mixture of high fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian fiction. And benefiting such a genre-mashing novel, Wigmore’s cast of characters encompasses all aspects of the LGBTQ+ spectrum and expresses numerous genders. Moreover, it is not surprising that “magic” can exist side by side with super advanced technology, or that the quasi-medieval setting with itinerant bards and common inns would also include surgically augmented mercenary soldiers who fight with super-powered weapons. (Rarely, Wigmore’s world of contradictions includes a jarring note, for example, when they describe a character as “Vietnamese” when no other current nationalities or place-names are mentioned; such a description seems anachronistic and out of place.)
Unlike most post-apocalyptic dystopias, the far-future Earth that Wigmore writes about in Foxhunt did not suffer an actual apocalypse—or at least, not quite: humanity apparently reached the brink, but was able to retreat in time and reverse the damage. So Foxhunt is far more optimistic in tone than most dystopian fiction; which is not to say that Orfeus does not have to wrestle with moral ambiguity: in a world where resources are rationed and (presumably) shared equably, she notices that members of the Order eat meat every day. Her decision to join the Order results not in answers to her questions, but rather further questions: What is the true purpose of the Order? Has it strayed from that purpose? Can it be reformed? Is it worth saving? (To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, you have a Utopia only if you work to keep it.) As Orfeus gradually uncovers answers (and more questions), she is forced to make some difficult decisions.
Foxhunt is a welcome addition to the Queen of Swords catalog: truly imaginative world-(re)building, diverse characters, breathtakingly paced action, a sense of mystery, and moral complexity will keep readers engaged, turning pages until the end, and wondering when Orfeus’ adventures will continue.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske