Verdict: FOX AND LUCIEN, BEYOND THE GATES OF HERCULES is a charming little adventure story; not the most suspenseful or action-packed of novels, but a fun little tour through a different time.
Lucien is a boy living with a new family in Bordeaux, some time in the early-ish 19th Century. His cousin Gustave is off fighting in the Foreign Legion in Algeria, and poor little Lucien and his dog, Fox, are somewhat bored in their new comfortable surroundings. But in trying to find themselves another adventure, the pair get a little more than they bargained for, when they accidentally stow away on a ship. Now sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, their adventures don’t stop there as they’re abducted by pirates and then exiled to the Sahara Desert.
Perry Vayo’s FOX AND LUCIEN, BEYOND THE GATES OF HERCULES can be best summed up with the word pluck; the boy protagonist reminds one more than a bit of a younger version of Tintin, and Fox is practically a dead ringer for Tintin’s dog Snowy, right down to also being a terrier. And the comparison is instructive: GATES OF HERCULES captures the thrill and adventure, the innocence and the strong sense of place that propel this plucky Francophone youth and his pet terrier haplessly around the world. There is something undeniably adorable in these two, encapsulated in lines of dialogue like, “If only we could find a barrel of meat and a cask of water, well then, we would have a grand feast!”
But BEYOND THE GATES OF HERCULES might just be a little too innocent. This is a world where even pirates are polite; where the dangers our protagonists face tend to be temporary and easily resolved by talking to the right people. BEYOND THE GATES OF HERCULES simply doesn’t have enough conflict to propel it forward.
The writing style is wonderfully archaic and period-appropriate, though there are not nearly enough paragraph breaks, making for huge, daunting blocks of text. The novel also takes quite a while to get going, with the boy and his dog not getting onto the ship until 100 or so pages in.
FOX AND LUCIEN, BEYOND THE GATES OF HERCULES is a charming little adventure story; not the most suspenseful or action-packed of novels, but a fun little tour through a different time.
~Charles Baker for IndieReader