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Karen Fox is attacked on her way home from school and left in a coma by her attackers. While she lies in her hospital bed an extraordinary thing happens – her spirit journeys to another world. In this parallel world Karen inhabits the body of a fox and becomes the guide to a young man called Mowl who is caught up in a complex and dangerous mix of politics and religion. A world in which old feuds are long fought over and not easily settled. In this world tribal allegiances hold great power, and religion, politics and old beliefs are in conflict. It is not easy to be neutral. But time is against both Karen and Mowl and their desperate attempts to survive are fought out against the knowledge that animal guides have a very short time to exist.
People are always curious about where ideas come from – I am too – but it’s usually an impossible question to answer. In the case of Hunted however, I know exactly where the idea came from. I was stuck – I wanted to start another story but hadn’t thought of anything I wanted to write about (this happens to me quite a lot). I was washing up one afternoon and listening to the radio news and because I wasn’t concentrating properly two separate news stories got muddled up in my head: the first was a report of a girl who had been attacked by a gang of girls and left badly injured, the second a story about banning fox hunting. In my mind the girl became the hunted fox and that idea became the story.
Originally the story was called ‘Fugue Fox’ because in a musical fugue a melody or phrase is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others.
I wanted to address the same kind of ideas in the two worlds in alternating chapters. A fugue is also, according to my Chambers dictionary ‘a form of amnesia which is a flight from reality’ which is what Karen might seem to be doing when she turns into a fox. I wanted the reader to be uncertain as to which was the real world and perhaps to believe that Karen was dreaming the whole fox episode. In the end it did not seem such a good idea to call the book Fugue Fox – it’s a difficult word to read and although to some extent the title shaped the book it didn’t need to have that title in order to ask the question of what was real and what wasn’t. Now the only obvious remaining reference to the whole ‘fugue’ idea occurs when Karen fox first meets Mowl and he calls her ‘fewg’ which is also the name for fox in his language.
I also really liked the concept of something deemed impossible in this world being part of the religious culture of another – so that while the idea of Karen becoming a fox is unbelievable in this world, the idea of a fox being an unborn human soul – an arl is a commonplace of Mowl’s word. It is interesting to imagine that – just maybe – from another perspective people on earth are living in some kind of underworld – in a preliminary form from which they migrate. This is sort of true anyway if you believe in heaven although Mowl’s world is obviously not meant to be a heaven – just a place with a different world view and one which, from Karen’s point of view, is no more wrong than the ideas she grew up with.
I found ‘Hunted’ a more difficult book to write than ‘Warriors of Alavna’ perhaps because I was trying to do something more complicated, and because I had to invent Mowl’s world and its religion for myself.
'Hunted is an extraordinary second novel by N M Browne ... a fascinating and unusual fantasy, which keeps the reader guessing at the outcome until the final chapter' Financial Times
'Intriguing storytelling and a fascinating fantasy world are built up in earthy detail' Books For Keeps
'A challenging, intelligent piece 'Books Magazine
“Suspense, excitement and full-blooded adventure make this sophisticated and gripping novel for older children, which blends an engrossing fantasy world and real world, with both totally believable.” Waterstone’s Books Magazine
‘A complex and thought-provoking narrative…With many shades of grey between the hero and the villain, a happy ending is not possible for everyone, although the reader will be happy with an excellent story.’ School Librarian
‘This book is really exciting and full of action andmystery.’ Teen Titles
‘Browne cleverly mixes fantasy and action. The mythology and culture of Mowl’s realm are fascinating, and the fight scenes, escapes and revelations will swiftly proper readers through to the conclusion.’ Publishers Weekly (US)
‘Clever and compelling.’ Kirkus Reviews (US)
‘This dark fantasy, enlivened by fight scenes and Karen’s strong sensory experiences as a wild animal, will appeal to fans of the genre. The ending is surprising but satisfying.’ Kliatt Magazine (US)
‘Intriguing storytelling and a fascinating fantasy world are built up in earthy detail in this novel. The fantasy is another rich vein of imagining where historic injustices must be righted amongst a community aware of the power of spirits and the presence of the girl within the fox.’ Books for Keeps
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