Inbali Iserles is the award-winning author of the middle-grade animal fantasy trilogy Foxcraft. The second book in the trilogy, The Elders, just came out this fall—and it is a vivid, gorgeous, and gripping return to the story of Isla, a brave young fox who’s searching for her missing brother.
Inbali stopped by OOM to answer our questions about the second book, and tell us why it’s a pitch-perfect read for young animal lovers and fantasy fans.
You’ve already introduced us to the Wildlands, the new setting for the second book, and the gorgeous new cover. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
In The Taken, the first book of the series, a young fox called Isla was chased from her den by spooky, red-eyed foxes. So began a quest to find her family, one that took Isla across the dangerous streets of the Great Snarl (the city). In The Elders, Isla continues her journey through the Wildlands. Dark forces lurk in the ancient forests. Yellow dust creeps between the trees and red-eyed foxes stalk the night in ever-greater number. Isla longs to be able to shapeshift, perhaps it would help… She learns of a council of Elders who are masters of foxcraft, guarding its precious secrets. Finding these mysterious foxes may be her only hope – but what if the Elders don’t want to be found?
Foxes are an incredibly appealing animal, for both kids and adults. What do you think makes them so fascinating?
Foxes are beautiful creatures, amber-eyed and fleet of foot. They are called “cat-like” canines and in many ways they sit between dogs and cats, between the familiar and the wild.
Foxes divide opinion. Shapeshifters, truthsayers, travelling tricksters – they’re more often cast as the villain of children’s books than the hero. The truth is, there’s a lot we don’t understand about foxes. They have a strange, almost unknowable quality that lends itself to fantasy – to magic.
In this fantasy series, some foxes are able to perform a kind of magic called foxcraft. This is such a cool hook for kids. Tell us a little bit about what foxcraft can do.
I first started thinking about foxcraft as I followed a gorgeous urban fox on a twilight street where I lived in London, England. The fox slipped between the railings of a park and disappeared from view. A moment later, he materialised behind me – almost as though he’d been invisible!
Foxcraft is a special kind of magic known only to foxes. Those with talent or training can slimmer (turn themselves invisible by stilling the mind and slowing the heartbeat). They can karak to confuse their prey (imitating the call of other creatures). They might even be able to perform higher arts, like wa’akkir (shape-shifting), gerra-sharm (talking to someone through their thoughts) or pashanda (summoning knowledge from the winds).
In order to feel real, the arts were inspired by natural foxy behavior. In Foxcraft, the characters can’t conjure up magic carpets – but one or two might be able to fuse their life-source. And perhaps even their minds…