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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
The Carnelian Fox by Kay MacLeod is the first book in the Monster Catching Gamelit Adventure series. What started as a game quickly became a global phenomenon that led to the creation of real monsters. Sam has worked her whole life to get where she is and everything pays off when she gets her first monster: a flame fox cub she names Finn. Everything she’s wanted is just within her reach until a tragedy shakes up her life and brings a new monster named Charlotte into her life. Taking a different course in her life, she seeks out a new travel buddy, throws herself into battling monsters, and ends up in a fight against a group that seeks to put an end to the game.
Sam’s life is thrown off course when she loses her best friend and, to achieve her dreams, she has to take a new direction. She’s worked hard to earn everything she has and to be where she is now with her own monster, so she’s determined to keep going and to reach the height of her dreams. The loss is a presence throughout the story and impacts the various decisions she makes. Sam ends up with a new traveling partner in the form of Lucy, which brings an assortment of monsters into her life and gives her someone that potentially could fill the void her best friend left. Each of the monsters has their own personality and place in the story with their appearances and attitudes reminiscent of animals.
The monsters add sparks of delight to Sam’s life with each one she obtains providing a source of companionship and friendship that she can count on and this pushes her to protect them. She ends up forming her own family unit with her monsters, which puts her at the center of this conflict as it deepens. This pits her directly against the group trying to put a total end to the game, which threatens everything that Sam loves. The Carnelian Fox has the elements of a game blended with reality for a chaotic and fun adventure that’s full of action, betrayal, and heart. A story for YA fantasy and gaming fans!