The Animal in Man by Joseph Asphahani

Maxan is a fox. Scratch that. Maxan is the only remaining fox, after first his family and then his friends in the rogue’s guild were killed. With nowhere else to go, he enlists in the city guard, using his natural stealth and cleverness to act as a scout and rooftop observer. This job has become only more important over time, as an increasing number of the town’s residents slowly return to their species’ wild, feral roots.

On one mission into the city’s quarantined districts Maxan makes several stunning discoveries. First, he is not the only living fox, after all. And second, this new vixen is a member of a shadowy organization charged with guarding the world against ruination caused by misuse of ancient technological artifacts. Unfortunately, the leaders of an upstart religion and their secular pawns want those artifacts for their own use.

It’s not long before Maxan and his only friend – a rhinoceros, of all people – find themselves in the midst of this shadow war, uncertain of whom to trust but nonetheless feeling the need to act. And, of course, there is the question of the buried technology’s origin. Who created it, and how does it relate to the animals’ recent sentience and self-awareness?

The Animal in Man uses as its guide Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and it’s not at all hard to draw parallels between Asphahani’s story and mankind’s own struggle to put aside its violent tribalism and build a sustainable, peaceful society. It is absolutely not preachy, however, so don’t worry about being talked down to.

This is the first of a planned trilogy, and promises a deep, engaging story.


Buy if: You like a good, rollicking fantasy but also like to think about deeper questions about life.

Don’t buy if: You are looking for a breezy read. There’s a good deal to chew on here.

Age: Teen+