Published by The Emma Press.
Reviewed by Robyn Colclough.
Upon reading the collection of unusual, fairy-tale-like stories that make up First Fox, I was pleasantly surprised. Auckland writer Leanne Radojkovich brilliantly enchants and enthrals the reader with each story, often surprising and intriguing the imagination. Along with the wonderful black-and-white illustrations that complement each tale, drawn by Rachel F. Fenton, the collection is a surreal, yet brilliant, way to introduce every new and twisted tale.
Since I have little experience with reading short stories, I thought that delving head first into a collection with such dreamlike, dark and twisted imagery would be difficult. From studying the likes of Angela Carter and her famous The Bloody Chamber, I expected to be left wanting more, not feeling fully satisfied. However, I was very wrong in my assumptions. First Fox was unique. With its oddly complex realities mixed with bizarre, yet magical, moments, it was a fascinating take on the struggles of the real world.
Indeed, it was the dreamlike qualities that resonated from every page, which made me want to read the next story as soon as I finished the last. Although some were extremely short, I took a moral lesson or even a feeling away from every single tale. The 46-page collection was packed with strange realities, warped fantasies and yet, I found, relatable characters. Many were nameless, but necessarily so to highlight the message or even just to build upon the surrealism of the story. With the added element of dark humour to bind the stories together, it was an oddly satisfying read when delving into the twisted realities created by Radojkovich.
It is difficult to choose a favourite story out of such a versatile and unique collection of fiction, not wanting to take away one tale from a brilliant set of stories. However, some more than others spoke to my personal tastes in fiction, often leaving a mark of intrigue on my imagination. One of these was New Light, an extremely chilling story that unsettled me long after reading. It was dark and perverse, yet sparked me to read more. Another was Mila and the Cat, a strange story that left me feeling a little uncomfortable. It seems that it was often the tales that were the most disturbing, yet fascinating, that captured my interest in Radojkovich’s work. Often mixed with a fairy-tale twist, I loved reading every new tale, opening my mind, and therefore my imagination, to every new piece she presented.
It seems it was the power of these stories and how they resonated with me long after reading that I loved. Each sentence was carefully crafted, and every story a different twist on our reality. Most of all, I am pleased that Radojkovich’s work has inspired me to read more collections of short stories. She has sparked an enjoyment for a fiction I previously ignored. For this, I am most thankful.