Furry Book Review
Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago
Forlorn, by Aaron B. is yet another dragon/dragonslayer romance story. Though I must admit I haven’t seen too many male/male stories of that particular subgenre. We start with a prologue showing our protagonist’s father in battle with a nine-foot tall anthropomorphic dragon, thus establishing the sort of legacy Tyler Brant has to live up to before he’s even introduced. The next chapter picks up twenty years later when Tyler has just been knighted, and seeking to prove himself; he’s dispatched almost immediately to investigate rumors of a dragon. However, the dragon he finds, Orpheus, turns out to be utterly disinterested in ravaging the countryside. Instead, Tyler and Orpheus have a somewhat civil conversation, which leads to something further…Meanwhile, a corrupt knight back in the kingdom thinks he might make a better ruler than the current queen.The setting seems based on a standard Medieval European Fantasy world with some more fairy tale elements. It’s populated by a blend of humans and fantasy creatures ranging in anthropomorphism from talking wolves to bird-man griffins, not particularly consistent. Whether it’s intended to be the “real world” sometime in the past or an alternate universe is unclear. There are a couple references to real world places, such as “European dragon,” “Russian symphony,” and “Molotov cocktail,” but given those would be anachronistic to the time period I could assume they were translation conventions for similar things in their world. On the other hand the few references to religion mention “gods” instead of “God”. I will give Aaron B. props for writing no taboo about homosexuality; too many fantasy authors seem to assume that a setting without Abrahamic religion would also make sodomy a capital offense. In this book nobody makes a fuss when Tyler asks out another knight early on; he just gets let down lightly.I found the first half of the book rather slow; then at the halfway point it picks up speed and races to the climax, which is resolved by the 80% point. After that we just get a slow denouement and Orpheus’ journal, which reveals his previously hinted at backstory as a cursed human. Moving the part where Tyler finds Orpheus’ journal earlier into the story might have helped with the book’s pacing issues, instead tacking it onto the end just feels like padding. Or Tyler could have read a little bit more of the journal each time he went to visit Orpheus, stringing the reader along with gradual revelations.In all, Forlorn has potential, but I feel Aaron B. published it too quickly. I’d like to read it again after a few more passes with an editor.
From Sinister Stoat Press and edited by Weasel comes Dread Volume I, a collection of stories showing “the sinister side of furry fiction”. There’s no story quite like a horror story, and nothing quite so challenging to write as flash fiction. Weasel says, “I could tell you to tread with caution. Every other horror project carries the same warning. Instead, dive in. Head first. Explore each quick grenade carelessly; the ride is only as bumpy as you make it.” I loved this in the forward, so I put the lights on low and gave this a read late at night, right before bed. Let’s see which stories had the most explosive impacts!“My First Fursuit” - Nathanial “LeCount” EdwardsFursuits, absolutely adorable right? Of course there’s plenty of fursuits on the scarier side, but this story shows this on a whole new level. If you’re already a fox, what would a fursuit really be? Perhaps it would be fur stolen from another anthro living in your world like this tale. It left a lingering sense of creepiness after reading, a well written piece! “Cat Problems” - James StoneWe all know someone that has a lot of cats and loves them all. But what happens when those cats slowly pass away? It can be quite difficult to deal with the loss of a loved fuzzy companion. Roger is facing just such a situation and finds himself surprised by the sudden new company he ends up keeping. I fell into the twist of this story in the best of ways.“Carlyle” - T. Thomas AbernathyThis was such a satisfying read! It is amazing how colorful and fantastic a story was told with so few words to do so. The pieces to the puzzle that make this story were laid out so masterfully at the perfect pace, ending with an excellent crescendo. I don’t want to spoil it by accident, so just go and make sure to read it! “Dinner Guest” - Stacy BenderIf you’ve ever had to go knocking on a door, trying to see why you couldn’t seem to get a response from a close loved one, this story should leave you on edge once you’re done reading. An innocent moment can quickly turn into something you don’t expect and this story shows that quite well.“Truth or Dare” - Thurston Howl & K.C. Alpinus A story written in the second person? It’s not easy to get right, but I think this story manages it in a novel way. You’re forced to face the horror first hand and not in the way you expect. Through a simple game of Truth or Dare the story slowly evolves in front of you and I’m quite sure the ending will get you good.“Relax” - Ceildih NewburyIt’s almost unfair to take such words as “just relax” and make me have to think back to a horror story when I hear them the rest of my life! Between this and never being able to look at a yoga session the same way ever again, this story packs a punch! “Monster in the Basement” - Alice CrawfordWritten in the style of a forum post/creepypasta, this story follows a saber toothed tiger house sitting for a friend before they hear a loud noise coming from the basement. Noises when you should be alone get one of two reactions: no worry at all, or a spike of fear. This story shows the latter reaction may always be the best. “Insomnia” - Alison CybeWho hasn’t had a night when they couldn’t seem to get to sleep? Some folks might try a cup of warm milk, deep breathing exercises, or any number of things to try and fight off insomnia. Perhaps you could simply count sheep, or visualize something else in your head. This story explores the latter option and just how dangerous that might be.“My Roommate’s Locks” - HypetaphSometimes people can lose things, perhaps they’re just absent minded. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if that missing sock, misplaced toothbrush, or that book you just can’t remember where you put it was caused by something more? This story surprised me with its twist and I have to say I enjoyed the feeling a good bit. Some horror is meant to make you jump; this story leaves you with uneasiness that isn’t easy to explain away. “Red Velvet” - George SquaresGrowing pains, something everyone seems to go through. If you’re a deer however, it might be a bit tougher when you get the migraine of your first set of antlers coming in. "Red Velvet" follows a young deer at 4H Camp and how he grows his new huge antlers, comes to hate them, and ends up losing them in quite the unexpected way. It’s a classic horror story out in the dark woods while camping, a perfect way to finish the anthology.---Unsurprisingly after reading ten great examples of horror I couldn’t just turn off the lights and drift off to an easy sleep. These flash fiction tales make for quick spooky reading that can be picked up and read in an evening and you won’t want to put them down until you’re done! Unless a story scares you off of course... I have to recommend this book to anyone that wants to enjoy the thrill only good horror can bring.
Published by Red Ferret Press with editing by Weasel and Thurston Howl, Knotted Volume II features eight different authors all covering curious and kinky stories featuring furry characters. Here’s your big warning that this review discusses adult content only suitable for those 18 and older! With this in mind, let’s get a look at the stories.“An Object Lesson” - RechanWhen I picked up this book, I’m sure I had plenty of ideas on what might comprise a kinky anthology, but this story managed to subvert my expectation in a fantastic way. The focus of this story is not about having sex itself, but actively being unable to have sex but still wanting to emotionally fulfill a partner. "An Object Lesson" shows a side of kink that you don’t always get to see, and I absolutely admire it for doing so. It may not have gotten a fire burning like some of the other stories did, but I don't think it was meant to. It left a deeper emotional impact than expected from the average erotic story, and it should be highly praised for doing so. “Buzzed” - Thurston HowlThis story might be a bit shocking: pun seriously intended. How much excited tension can be built when you’re going to be surprised by some kinky sex? What happens when you’re tied up and suddenly realize your prostate is about to be zapped into orgasmic bliss? If the answer is you get incredibly excited, this story is likely for you! Though I’m not sure about such heavy inebriation when managing e-stim play like this, I can understand the fantasy fueling it easily. For sure a read for those that love a bit of zap in the bedroom! “All Work and No Play” - TJ MindeNothing like a bit of sci-fi technology to make for a sexy scenario to explore. We’ve all heard jokes about how to think with portals, but this story takes it to a whole new level. I’ve read plenty of stories with a remote-controlled vibrator, trying to take a phone call during sex, things like this. It’s ramped up to a spicier level when there’s a literal portal so you might have your dick touched, sucked, or more at any moment even if no one around you knows it’s happening. Definitely a hot read! “The Br’er Necessities” - BanWynn OakshadowI have to be honest, this story just wasn’t a hit with me. I couldn’t really focus on what might be a hot story while trying to sift through that language and the uncomfortable feelings surrounding the presentation of black stereotypes this style of writing seems to evoke. However, I must also be honest and say it was written quite impressively to look like what you might expect out of a classic Uncle Remus story but in a more adult content. While this story isn’t for me I still can admire it succeeding telling the story it wanted to tell in the style that was intended. “Gift of the Goddess” - Mog MoogleOn the surface, it might seem like someone who has a lot of responsibilities in life and is in control or large projects would seem like a likely dominant in the bedroom. However, as this story shows, usually those that bear the most weight need a bit of time where they must worry about nothing but pleasing a mistress.I loved seeing what looks to be a timid mouse putting a lion king through his paces like this. It was a strong story that certainly kept me both intrigued and excited throughout. “God’s Plan” - Tyson WestIn good erotica, there is not just a sexy scene but a strong plot surrounding it. This story does that in spades. There’s a lot of built-up shame and confused feelings for those whose lives are firmly embedded into religious lifestyles. I wasn’t sure something like this could turn into a good sexy tale, and I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. It’s not often a piece of erotica is going to also provide a lot emotionally to ponder over after reading. This story manages to do just that! “Centerpiece” - Madison “Makyo” Scott-ClaryThis may have been my favorite story in the anthology. It not only thoroughly describes setting a scene, consent checks, and everything else that makes for a great kinky experience but also is tantalizing. It gives a wonderful look into subspace and helps draw you into it as you read. After all of the build-up, you’re left with nothing but a sexy tease. Even the story itself leaves on a naughty dominant note! I’ll likely be reading this one again. For purposes that you might suspect. “Short Staffed” - TelevassiFor some, a scene or a moment with a dom is when they can truly feel free, feel like themselves, and feel so shame. (Unless humiliation is your kink, but that’s not quite the same.) For this stallion, recently free from living in the Soviet Union and in a state that recently has made sodomy legal, there’s a lot of things that they want to express and explore. Thankfully a wonderful dancer at the club they work at named Yvetta decides to give him a personal dancing lesson. One that involves a little less dancing and a bit more hot action. This story is quite poetic to end on, as you finish the book the last characters you read in it are just about to begin a grand adventure. Such a good read!---Knotted Volume II has a wide variety of stories in enough settings that there should be something for anyone to enjoy that wants to feed their kinky side. The stories on these pages brought me some personal pleasure from reading, if you catch my drift. I have to recommend this one to anyone wanting something a bit spicy to read either by themself or with a partner. Who knows what naughty ideas you might want to try after giving it a read?
Long Way Home is Gre7g Luterman’s 5th adventure written in the Hayven Celestia Universe. It’s also his first Hayven Celestia book with an erotic focus. Here’s your big warning that this review discusses adult content only suitable for those 18 and older!With that out of the way, this story follows Jungo, a geroo on the cusp of adulthood still battling with raging hormones who has decided to leave his family farm to take a tour out in space. What looks to be only a two-year adventure quickly turns out to be a 10-year stint. After some shenanigans involving a pirate crew, the trip keeps becoming longer and longer. Despite this book being erotica, Gre7g has once again created a story clearly worth following. All ‘reading it for the plot’ jokes aside, this is truly a great piece of fiction all on its own which expands the Hayven Celestia universe in an interesting way. I wasn’t quite sure if it contained spoilers from Rick Griffin’s stories after Traitors, Thieves and Liars (Finals Days of the White Flower II) as Gre7g does have a mention at the beginning of the book that some canon things may be different between them as they write but just in case the far off ending for that series might have been alluded to in these pages.So does the book keep things hot and spicy despite the well written story? The answer still remains a yes! There’s M/F scenes, M/M scenes, and certainly a big moment with group sex! Did I mention there were zero gravity scenes? Because there’s some really creative zero gravity scenes. All of these are accompanied by gorgeous pieces of art by H. Kyoht Luterman which bring these scenes to life in a wonderful way. Geroo anatomy being different from humans, it was interesting to explore something foreign yet still written in a way to make even a human like me understand why a geroo would be excited over these different parts they might be dealing with. The other species included, the ringel, are a bit more like humans and easier to follow while also having an insatiable appetite for sex. This book captured my imagination so much I read it in a single day while being very happy I could do so in the privacy of my own bedroom for what might be obvious reasons. Gre7g has once again written a phenomenal work of sci-fi, and I hope to see him continue trying his hand at more adult works in the future. I would recommend this to any fan of sci-fi, especially fans of the Hayven Celestia universe, that would enjoy something to fire up their naughtier side.
Sometimes, Furry Book Review tackles what I often call "furry-adjacent literature." The book may not be directed specifically at the furry fandom as a market, but it might still appeal to furries. That is the case with Gregory Kimbrell's short book, The Ceremonial Armor of the Impostor. As the back-cover blurb states, this book is a combination of two sequences of long narrative poems, set respectively in the 16th century, focusing on the mercenary Sous-Terrain, and the 19th century, focusing on an aristocrat hunting down a lion furry.Largely, the work is Gothic surrealist, and its slow yet evocative style proves that. Sous-Terrain's narrative is a lot slower than the aristocrat's, and it felt a lot more cosmological. I found myself struggling to keep up with his plight, and I found myself struggling to care, too. Not much work is put into setting the scene, and the character stays an enigma throughout the book.The aristocrat's narrative however was a lot more involved and had a greater awareness of plot. Not just because of the sexy lion furry but also because of the first-person perspective of the piece and the attention to setting details. I really enjoyed that narrative all on its own. I had a much clearer goal in mind, and I found myself consistently more invested in his story than Sous-Terrain's.I probably would not recommend this book to the average furry. But if you love Gothic lit, this book is definitely up your alley. I ain't lion.
Boldly Going Forward is a charity anthology benefiting the ALS Association. Recently released by Goal Publications, it features stories from eight authors all surrounding space and exploring the great unknown. Full Disclosure: I am one of the authors featured in this book. However, I will not be letting any bias get in the way of my reviews, nor will I be offering much more than a synopsis for the story I wrote in order to be fair.Now without further ado, let’s talk about the stories and then get into what kind of reader this book would be a good fit for.Somewhere Over The Ocean - Mary E. LowdOnce again Mary shows off her prowess when exploring a sci-fi universe. This story shows a world where all life lives underwater getting its first visitors from space. It is brief but powerful prose; a perfect story to start the anthology.For The Greater Good - TJ Minde A classic case of a holodeck, in this case called the Sim, is what sparks this story to life. It’s fun to see a sci-fi story still get to take place in somewhat of a medieval setting through use of the Sim. It also was an interesting examination of what the world might be like with that kind of technology.This was definitely a good read, watch out for a twist ending!Shooting For The Star - SofoxCan you imagine searching for a new planet to call your home? What if you had volunteered for the task without any real choice in the matter? If you lived on a comfortable starship your entire life, would you actually want to leave? Sofox’s story takes a look at all of these questions as a generation ship is finally to the most important part of its mission. Being able to tackle so many themes in such a strong manner, all of it in a short story no less, is quite impressive! It’s always wonderful to see a story packing so many emotions and deep thoughts to consider within its pages. A New Star - Linnea CappsWe’ve all seen stories of aliens invading Earth, but what happens when the humans are the invaders? This story looks at what happens to the tribes of cats inhabiting a planet and the different ways they adjust to these new invaders.It wouldn’t be fair for me to rate my own story as I obviously quite enjoy it, but I hope anyone that picks up the anthology enjoys reading it as much as I did writing it!The First Stand - Jaden DrakusCould you potentially wage literal war against the one you love? This story looks at Colt, one of the last pilots possibly available after a massive surprise attack against their space station. There’s a serious possibility the only reason he was among the surviving crew was a strange mission they were sent on before the attack, potentially arranged by his boyfriend who’s fighting for the other side.This story does a fantastic job of putting you into the cockpit for a thrilling space battle all while Colt has to tackle some very tough emotional decisions. Overall a strong story that was a joy to read!The Dunes of Henereth - Thomas “Faux” SteeleWhat happens when a war hero lives so long no one even remembers to pay their pension? Ilex, an immortal, still needs to eat even if he’s lived more years than most can count as he finds himself in a desert to make enough credits so he can return to the colder home he desires. Getting to learn bits and pieces about the sentient life living on this planet and seeing how Ilex is able to discover more than the corporate backed soldiers before him have is an interesting ride with a satisfying, but slightly abrupt ending. Distress Signal - Nenekiri BookwyrmA clockwork dragon sent on a mission through the stars? It’s not as unlikely as you think. This story follows Rimor as he tries to save the doctor that saved his life after a major accident years ago. While we don’t really learn details about the accident itself, we do see how it affects his current life through isolation and an inability to do things he was once able in the past.I can say for certain the end surprised me in a very pleasant way. This was a fun read, and I would love to see more adventures like Rimor’s across the written cosmos. Fastest Route - Sonriah ThaiseImagine racing through space on a ship so fast the g-forces could literally knock you out. Now imagine piloting that ship with a noisy politician as your cargo, trying to get him to an important meeting. This is what Amaka is set to do in this story.The story, while short, manages to cover a lot of what must be a complicated political battle going on in the universe while delivering a great story. An excellent way to finish off the anthology.---Of course this book already gets my recommendation for its profits being for a cause worthy enough to support all on its own. However, the stories more than make for a good purchase either way. This anthology is good for any fans of sci-fi that like the idea of exploring several different cultures and what exploration means to them. This anthology will leave your imagination drifting through the cosmos in the best of ways.
Tri-Galactic Trek features ten short stories that are re-imaginings of a certain episodic science fiction television franchise. The diverse furry crew of the Initiative travels though space on scientific and diplomatic missions, seeking out first contact with new species and opportunities to explore and advance their own knowledge of their universe. Now all their adventures are collected into a single volume for the reader’s enjoyment. Lowd’s Tri-Galactic Trek is equal parts love story to the original material and wildly original interpretation through a fully furry lens. It is an homage, both faithfully recognizable and delightfully original, and should appeal to any furry scifi reader, but most especially to those who are fans of the original material. Somehow each character is clearly identifiable and yet brilliantly translated into a furry counterpart. The plots are familiar and yet creatively shifted so as to be new and exciting, and the whole world has a unified, fully developed feeling that makes it a solid, independent entity in its own right. Though all the stories/episodes are well written and beautifully translated, a few that really stood out as spectacular to me were: "Fact and Myth," "Rapscallions," and "Encounter at Hoppalong." All the stories are expertly threaded together, referencing one another just enough to give continuity and a sense of a longer timeline. The only quibble I had with the whole collection was the story "Mewly" which felt incomplete and more like an opening scene than a full episode. Though the story’s resolution is mentioned in a later installment, the abrupt ending was jarring enough that I would have liked it to be its own complete episode. I highly recommend Tri-Galactic Trek to any furry reader, any fan of science fiction or of Lowd’s other works, but most especially to all the furry trekkies out there, for whom I believe this book is an absolute must read.
Restless Town is a collection of stories written by Madison Scott-Clary. Published in various anthologies and places, they all cover different themes, ideas, and lives of different people. A quick warning before we get onto the full review: many of the stories contain moments of sexuality among other themes that may be difficult for certain readers. All of these are mentioned in the book itself before you start reading which is a wonderful touch. For this review, I’ll give a short content warning before the mini-review of each story for the readers here. With this in mind, let’s get started!"The Fool" There are a lot of ways to potentially learn some deep truths around oneself. One of the more mystical options could be through tarot cards. The protagonist of this story walks in to get a reading, or, to be more accurate, is led through reading the cards and what they might mean. A lot of meaning can be drawn from the art on the cards, and the protagonist walks out not only with a better understanding of themselves but also a person who can listen and help them on their way."Disappearance" - CW: Sex, Body ModificationWhat would life be like if you left everything you knew behind? Your name, your clothes, your car, everyone you ever knew, gone where you could never return? This story takes a look at what that might be like and the motivations someone might have to want to do so. Sometimes after you read a full book you need time before starting the next to take in the enormity of what you just read. This short story packs in more of a punch than some novels I've read prior. If you bought this collection for this story alone, you'd have your money's worth. Absolutely phenomenal to read!"Fisher"This story is short and to the point so we'll do the same for this part of the review. A walk a day keeps anxiety at bay, or so this fisher thinks. A good examination of emotions surrounding grieving and anxiety."Centerpiece" - CW: Sex, BondageFrom a purely analytical standpoint, this story is a marvelous examination of kink communities. It describes setting a scene, includes lots of consent checks, and is an excellent look at what sub-space is like.From the standpoint of wanting a saucy story to read? By the end, you'll be left shivering, wanting to see the whole scene play out only to be left with a tease. This is a perfect example of what adult writing should look like."You're Gone" - CW: Death, Abuse, MedicalThis examination of grief and letting someone go who has passed away is powerful. It puts the reader into this position powerfully by being written as if it's through text messages. It makes it feel so real and immersed to the point where empathy becomes easier. Be prepared to cry when reading this one. I know I did."Overclassification" - CW: SexAn otter learns what life is like for those that don’t color inside the neat tidy lines they often covet. Sometimes all it takes is one person, one meaningful interaction, to change the way you view life. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and won’t say anymore to keep the surprises fresh. Make sure to read it!"Acts of Intent"I’m unsure if it was the unique writing style that cut the story up into flashbacks and current time in almost every other paragraph, but I had a harder time following this story. It seemed interesting, about an artist trying to bring a pyro art piece to life, but I couldn’t entirely figure out what was being drawn or the exact reason why. This was the weakest story for me in the anthology, but to be fair all of the other stories were quite incredible, so it had tough competition."Every Angel Is Terrifying" - CW: Sex This story follows a collie struggling to understand life and himself all the while battling against bipolar disorder. Like most of the stories in this anthology, the writing draws you in, giving glasses to witness what that life must be like through a lens of empathy. A powerful and emotional read with a hopeful ending."What Defines Us"This story is told through a series of emails as a son talks to his mother about issues facing his relationship with his wife. They both don't want a repeat of the past, how divorce ended up being with him as a young boy. As a Mom myself, reading this struck a cord, especially when they talked about how children react during divorces. A worthwhile read for sure!"A Theory Of Attachment" - CW: SexThis story looks at navigating a complicated relationship structure like polyamory while dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. The intersectionality of mental health and polyamory isn’t something I’ve seen properly explored in a story before. Not to mention seeing such a frank and honest look at what the beginnings of a poly relationship can look like. It was refreshing reading something so different and approached so well. ---I expect that I will be carrying these stories in my heart and mind for quite some time. While not as heavy on anthropomorphic themes as some books I’ve read, the characters that drive these stories forward are all vibrant and fantastic. Restless Town gets a recommendation from me for anyone that wants to deeply examine emotions and understand the world from a different perspective. These stories have so much to offer, I look forward to reading more works from Madison Scott-Clary in the future!
Jeremy Newton’s A Wolf Asunder is roughly the size of a Lord of the Rings novel, but it moves so quickly I barely noticed the length. The first of the author’s Shadow Wolves series, it takes place in a high-tech kingdom of lupine anthros called “wolfen” divided between four tribes. We open with the protagonist, a “Fenrir” super soldier of the Feron tribe named Kaltos, as he receives an order from Warlord Fennis to slaughter a patrol from another tribe. If you’re having trouble keeping all the “fe” names straight, you’re not alone. Realizing that carrying out that order would start a war between the tribes, Kaltos defies orders and deserts, crossing the border and turning himself in to the neighboring tribe. From there he gets embroiled in inter-tribal politics that take him to the capital and a meeting with the young queen. Then they work out a plan to head off a war embroiling all four tribes by letting Kaltos take the fall for the incident, though the queen’s attempt to shield him from real punishment is partly derailed. And that’s just halfway into the volume; afterwards there’s a two-year timeskip where Kaltos has taken up work as an anonymous caravan guard, until he accidentally draws the crown’s attention again.Spoilers ahead:While on a job, Kaltos comes across across an older male wolfen beating a younger female and decides to put a stop to it. Unfortunately the male turns out to be a politician Kaltos met after his defection and he files a complaint that threatens to expose the queen’s ruse. Said politician is soon found dead in his apartment, but his daughter Jezelaire becomes obsessed with the rogue Feron who saved her. When Jez and the royal guard track him down Kaltos decides he’s done hiding and enlists their aid in building his own private army, the Shadow Wolves referenced in the series title.Spoilers end.While this book bills itself as the start of a series, it could have easily been split into two, if not three novels by itself. The size of the volume aside, Kaltos’ trial seemed a natural stopping point even before the timeskip, after the timeskip it feels like an entirely separate episode in the series with all the new characters and events. I will admit it was an entertaining read with more action than many Schwarzenegger movies, and I will be looking out for the next installment. Kaltos seems to have a few “cliche action hero” traits, such as being practically unbeatable in a fight, oblivious to every female character crushing on him, and an unusual eye color (green), though some of it is justifiable by his being essentially a lupine version of Master Chief. Taken from his family at a young age and subjected to surgical and genetic modifications that made him very strong, but killed half his class, and given elite training that left him no time for a social life. At one point he claims that the Fenrir project made him unable to develop feelings for anyone, but next chapter he runs halfway across town into battle with another Fenrir to save Jezelaire. Newton seemed to be building the world as he wrote; I thought the four tribes were separate political entities until the royal guard showed up. I’m still unclear whether the world is post-apocalypse or somehow developed gas engines and genetic engineering with a quasi-feudal government that considers ranged weapons “dishonorable.” I will say that the Feron tribe seems to be an effective deconstruction of the “proud warrior race” trope, everybody else hates them and the only place they seem to be advanced is in unethical biomedical experiments, while their leader wants to start a war he’s unlikely to win.In all, A Wolf Asunder is an entertaining read, despite whatever flaws the story and characters might have. Kaltos’ arc is clearly not complete, and I’ll be keeping watch for the next installment.
The horror genre has shaped our culture dramatically over the past thirty years with some movies, like Saw, being the frontrunners for just how creepy and torturous we can get, while other, more recent ones, like Get Out, illustrate a deeper, more political side of the fears that have come to appear in today’s society. The cool thing about furry is that we can explore all of the horror genre in a completely different way--by turning all the would-be humans into anthropomorphic animals. With this fantastical flip, the limits to our imagination have exceeded that of human-centric horror stories. With a group of passionate furry authors there is no telling what to expect, leaving SLASHERS filled with terrifying possibilities and a story for every horror fan out there.SLASHERS is a collection of horror stories written by eleven different furry authors. Each story is bordered by an overarching narrative that places the authors as victims you would find in a typical slasher narrative. A friendly retreat into the woods to talk about the horror stories they have been working on turns deadly when a murderous wolf begins his hunt. While the characters may escape the fear from each other’s stories, the real fear is lurking in the shadows. And if you’re curious about the writers involved in the making of SLASHERS, you can find a short biography for each one in the back of the anthology. I promise their biographies are not scary.Ritual FallacyThe first story of SLASHERS reminds me of a typical young adult horror movie, if typical young adult movies involved anthropomorphic animals, that is. Ritual Fallacy, by Nathaniel “LeCount” Edwards, is about three young adults who attempt to summon a demon at a friend’s uncle’s cabin. When things don’t quite work, his canine friends Allison and Francis quickly find that their previous beliefs about the occult were not as fantastical as they thought. One thing bothered me with this story: why did Tony want to do the ritual in the first place? Edwards doesn’t give us any hint as to why, which was unsatisfying to me. But maybe you just want to read a good story without thinking too much about what the characters want (because let’s face it, in an erotic horror anthology they might all die anyway). In that case, LeCount does a good job at getting the reader immersed in the story. With his terrifying descriptions of the creature and the fear of being followed, Ritual Fallacy is a great thriller.House of HaresIf you like “whodunit” stories, you’ll like House of Hares. Madison Keller does a great job setting the atmosphere for this chiller, and the unpredictability of what was going to happen drew me in close to its pages. The story takes place in the Winchester House, known for being confusing and haunting due to its WWII origins. A group of hares--not bunnies--takes a tour of this maze of a house, and after a scream is heard echoing through the walls Sam, an off-duty beaver cop, takes it upon herself to keep everyone safe. There were two things that really stuck out to me about this story: the human tour guide, and the chemistry between Sam and her bull boyfriend Oscar. Having a human in a furry story is a wild concept that may distract some readers, but Keller does a fantastic job at keeping the story focused on the furry aspect using animals’ heightened smell and sight to give them an advantage. Not only that, but Keller writes that having a human tour guide, “adds to the authenticity of the experience,” and I agree. As for Sam and Oscar, it was nice to see their trust for each other grow during the events of the story. Not every horror story has the capacity to keep both the compassion and the fear together, but this one did, and it was very enjoyable.A Killer Among OthersUsually, I imagine the prison scenes to happen after the events of a horror story, but A Killer Among Others shows us that prisons like Harmony Correctional can be just as scary as a cabin in the woods. MikasiWolf writes about a few prisoners, each with their own faults and backgrounds, who experience two deaths in this mystery thriller. After some talk about their histories, Georgie, an ex-cop wolf, is recruited to help figure out who the killer is. With some help from his cell-mates, the wolf risks both a longer sentence and his life to help get the prison under control. Once I got used to the prison lingo I felt part of the story. It was immersive, and the characters felt real. The horror was in the tension, knowing that at any moment everything could turn chaotic and deadly. I highly recommend this one, especially for its attention to detail, memorable characters, and a satisfying ending.I Can’t Stop ItI Can’t Stop It by Kirisis takes a more primal look at horror, focusing on the predator/prey aspect of furry. Ryleigh, a bunny, is being hunted by something they call The Serpent. After getting together with Buckley, a funny farming rabbit, he trains her in case she and The Serpent ever clash. Destiny calls, but there is another danger lurking elsewhere. This story caught me off-guard with its perspective switches. Sometimes it’s focused on Ryleigh’s thoughts and actions; sometimes it’s focused on The Serpent’s. I think it works for the story, but I also think it would be a good idea to put in events that are felt across both perspectives to help anchor the reader in time. The ending fell short, too. I was left with more questions than answers and wanted to know more about Ryleigh’s part in all of it. However, Kirisis does an amazing job with the gross descriptions of The Serpent, and getting into his mind had my face twisting inside out, just like a good horror story should.HomecomingWhat was supposed to be a nice reunion with a friend was anything but in Patrick D. Lambert’s Homecoming. Terrence, a cheetah, finds this out the hard way when he visits his old home in hopes of reuniting with his otter friend Eduard. Eduard seems to be missing, so Terrence fights his way through the cold and his memories to try to understand what is happening in this small town. He’ll get his answer, or he’ll freeze to death trying. This story had me shivering all the way through, and not just from the snowy environment Lambert describes. From the first line to the last, I was freaked out and worried. Lambert’s use of repetition and denial in Terrence’s mind is absolutely incredible. I couldn’t tell the fake from the real, but the danger was always there. As Terrence traveled further and further away from what he thought he knew, I traveled further and further into the realm of the unknown, gripping to any flame of hope that I saw. Lambert didn’t give much. In fact, Lambert gave the perfect amount to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Homecoming is an incredible short story, and I highly recommend it.Hell on a Two-Lane BlacktopNow, it’s important to remember that SLASHERS is an erotic horror anthology. Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop really puts the “erotic” in that title. Imagine a blue panda who loves nothing but sex, cars, and violence. That is the main character in Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop written by Weasel. The panda’s name is Rick, and in his escapades to find a new person to drive his hot-rod into he gets a bit more than he bargained for. The story is, at first, rather tame, but it immediately jumps the gun when Rick spots Kurt, a drunk fox who’s looking for a ride home. Rick sees his chance and takes it, giving Kurt a hell of a time. From there, Rick’s activities escalate, sending him way over the edge. I wasn’t particularly fond of this story--there wasn’t much of a plot or any significant character development--but if you have a taste for torture, and a need for speed, you probably will.A Question of LoyaltyA Question of Loyalty by Arcane Reno is as wild as the sea herself. It’s a small cast of characters, including Captain Robert, Martin, Sandy, Louis, and the main character Ivan. After the group spends some time out at sea exploring old shipwrecks, Ivan notices the captain acting a bit strange. His concerns are met with reassurance from the captain and compassion from his crewmates, but Ivan isn’t so easily convinced. His suspicions lead him to a truth he wasn’t prepared for, but when it comes down to it, it’s all just a question of loyalty. It was fun to read a story that takes place on a boat. The plot is short, sweet, and solid. Reno did a great job at raising and lowering the tension, like the sea, and in the final moments it had me on edge. When the story was finished I wanted more. I’d even suggest expanding this into a bigger story, or making some kind of series about it.KomakinoKomakino is your typical slasher story, so much so that it constantly references it throughout the story. Written by Cedric G! Bacon, this story is about Audrey, a fox who’s a victim of a slasher narrative. Ten years ago, all of her friends died by the paws of a murderer. Now, the killer’s parole is up, and he makes himself known by kidnapping Audrey and her therapist/friend Evelyn. As the killer pushes her through the old cabin where everything happened, Audrey remembers things differently. The fog in her mind is lifted, and she realizes the events of the past are not as clear-cut as she thought. Personally, I felt this story was lacking, and the motif about Audrey being the “Final Girl” was way too prevalent. There is a good story here, but I feel like making it about the sequel to the main story just isn’t strong enough. While reading, I wanted to know more about what happened all those years ago. Sure, Audrey retells it, but I feel like that’s where the real story is. Maybe a time-shift would help so the reader is put into that scene for a longer amount of time. That way, when this sequel story comes to an end, the reader feels like there’s a lot more pressure or a bigger need for things to be resolved. I enjoy Audrey’s thoughts, and the way she comes to a conclusion is interesting. I want to see more of that and the internal horror she has to deal with on a constant basis.Damned If I Don’tDamned If I Don’t takes erotic horror to its core. Thurston Howl writes about a group of five friends who take a vacation to a beach house. While the main character, a fox named Darius, sexually explores one friend, another friend is murdered. The group is left wondering what will happen to the rest of them. In that time, Darius seeks comfort in his other friends, sexually exploring them as well. A day or two later, Darius finds out who the real killer is and is asked a final, damning question. This story is not for the faint of heart. Howl does a good job making the horror erotic and the eroticism horrific. It is not a long story, but it feels long because of the time it takes to get from one horrific image to the next. The sexual scenes are pushed to their limit too. The satisfaction I felt finishing a scene was immediately replaced with a horrific realization of what happened next. I felt like the story relied on this to keep it interesting and scary. It worked.Nightmare at Elmwood CollegeHalfblood Cheetah writes a parody of the story of Freddy Krueger in his story titled Nightmare at Elmwood College. The story is about a few college students who discover a haunting truth: someone is murdering students in their sleep. With help from Randy’s notes about the murderer, Randy’s friends, Avery, Hank, Percy, and Kelly, hatch a plan to try to get rid of Teddy Rueger once and for all. This story was really fun to read because of the creative ways Teddy killed people. In dreams, anything goes, and it seemed like Cheetah had a great time exploring all the possibilities. The confusion I felt while reading this--specifically, is this real or is it fake--emphasized the horror. The characters didn’t feel safe at any particular moment, and as a result, I was left on edge the whole way through. The concept of pain that lasts between dreams and reality is also an interesting subject that Cheetah had fun with, although it seemed a bit off how the paramedics didn’t question the weird cuts they must have found on some of the bodies. I wasn’t able to focus on this for long though; I was too worried about what was going to happen next. Nightmare at Elmwood College is an exciting read.What’s Your Name?In this tale about a group of students who visit an abandoned school, Faolan combines sheer horror with extreme desperation and hopelessness. What’s Your Name? is cold and eerie. It skips all introductions and puts the reader right in the center of the horror. There’s something about the language that throws you into the story, watching these kids explore this school because they just wanted to have a fun time. A few minutes later, one friend is dead and the rest are running for their lives to escape a wraith that roams the place looking for her long-dead husband. Beware her question, for you may be the next one to die. This story does a great job at giving the reader a strong sense of fright. I felt the urge to be quiet because I didn’t want the wraith to know I was there reading along with the kids. At the times where I felt most hopeful, Faolan shut the door to those feelings with creepy sensory details and gruesome scenes that horrified me to my core. The small bits of compassion cut their way through the story and make it that much better. The story isn’t overly disgusting or terrible, and it doesn’t play games. It’s real and you feel it, even at the end.The overarching narrative of SLASHERS helps pull the whole anthology together. With the typical slasher plot seeping its way between every short story, the reader always has something to come back to. The title font is a nice touch to the horror aspect of the anthology. It’s not overbearing, and the regular text is easy to read. Each story is easily found on the table of contents, and the biographies in the back are great for readers to know more about the writers and even follow them if they so choose. The trigger warning in the front of the book is nice and clear, which is good because it is important for readers to know that there is content that may be hard for them to read. This book would appeal to those who enjoy horror stories that involve anthropomorphic animals. Young adults in their twenties or thirties would probably enjoy these stories the best since most of the characters are around that age. However, anyone who is a fan of horror movies would probably enjoy these stories.
Throughout history, there's probably no subject more debated than what comes after death. From the Nirvana and Naraka of Buddhism, to the Elysium and Tartarus of Greek Mythology, passing through the Aztec's Mictlan, and everything in between; multiples texts, religions, and philosophers have all tried to come up with an answer to this question. Chief among these texts is Dante's The Divine Comedy, which tells the poet's journey through the three realms of Christian afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory) while accompanied by two spiritual guides: Virgil, a master poet, and Beatrice, his one true love. Dante's work is so influential that it basically ended up becoming the basis of all modern depictions of these realms, and no part of The Divine Comedy is more well known than the first one: Inferno, the chronicle of Dante's journey through Hell, and the inspiration for this book.Infurno is an erotic horror anthology by Thurston Howl Publications, and the first part of The Divine Clawmedy series (oh, the puns!). This anthology tells the story of Kyle and Terry, a gay couple living in Detroit, who end up traveling through the several circles of Hell while accompanied by Atha, a doe and their guide on this realm. Just like its source material, the couple meet several people on their journey and learn what it is they did to deserve being there. However, unlike its source material, they do so by reliving the events which led to their demise and damnation. Unsurprisingly, each of these is one story, each by a different author, and it is these stories which make up the bulk of the anthology.Be warned that, given the themes and subjects of the stories within (bad people going to bad places for doing bad things), this anthology features depictions of such sensitive topics as rape, violence, torture, gore, murder, suicide, self-harm, racism, physical and emotional abuse, among many others.The anthology has a strong start with "Blur" by Weasel, representing Limbo. As expected from the only "innocent" circle of Hell, the protagonist of this tragic story, Ely, a white lab mouse on the run after a life of prostitution, is moreso a victim of circumstances than of his own foil. Weasel's depiction of regret makes it easy to sympathize with our main character, and also heightens the sense of dread as the story goes on until its eventual outcome.The next story, "A New Toy" by Tarl Hoch, shows a more traditional type of horror. Anderson, porn store owner and the protagonist of this story, is a fox who decides to try a new sex toy he bought from a mysterious otter. Described in a way that would make Lovecraft proud, I got a quick smile which promptly faded after finding out how said toy was used. While Hoch manages to hit some good notes on the horror scale, I feel that this story faces a tough competition from other stories further down in the anthology, even when specifically talking about sex and the role it plays in the story, and, maybe it's just me, but there were some parts I had to reread several times to get a clear picture of what was going on.The third circle brings two stories: "Down Among the Damned" by R.S. Pyne, and "Go Nuts for Donuts" by Jensyn Grayves. "Down Among the Damned" stars Ray, a restaurant critic who proudly and boldly embodies everything related to Gluttony, and that means more than just a taste for food. Pyne excelled at making Ray a truly unlikable character and cementing his place in Hell, being the first story to mix both pre- and post-damnation scenes, though the lack of horror and over-reliance on flashbacks could not mesh well with some readers.As for "Go Nuts for Donuts", I have mixed feelings about it. Grayves' story of Mike, a raccoon working at a donuts store who falls for one of his coworkers, is well written on my opinion with a relatable character and situations, but it's also the first story to show one of my issues with the anthology. For starters, Mike feels more like a representative of Sloth than Gluttony, but, more importantly, the raccoon did not really strike me as someone deserving to be condemned to Hell either by his actions or his attitude. Moreover, the story did not fit the erotic bill, with no sex scenes at all, and I'm not really sure if it would count as horror outside of its ending, which does work more with the genre. Perhaps, this is one story that could have fared better until the next installment of the Clawmedy.For the fourth circle we have "The Eyes of Aquana" by Faolan, and "The Cold" by Cedric Bacon. Representing Greed, Faolan's story is that of a master thief trying to steal the eponymous eyes along with his protégé. An entertaining story with a protagonist that does earn his spot in Hell, yet one I feel has the same problem as the previous one of not really feeling like a horror story and, while it does have several sex scenes, I don't think they're enough to make it erotica either. Not a bad story by any means, but maybe one that would feel more at home in a different anthology or even as a stand-alone (I mean it, I'd certainly read a complete novel based just on this world and characters)."The Cold" returns us back to the horror with a simple setup: two dogs, one sack of gold, and a storm forcing them all to be together. Slightly reminding me of Alvin Schwartz's "The Wendigo," Bacon's portrayal of Masterson's decent into madness is a believable pleasure to read, and, while the story can be a little predictable at times, it does manage to hide enough twists to keep the reader on their toes."A Cat in Hell's Chance" by James Hudson and "Je Reviendrai" by Kirisis are the representatives of the fifth circle: Anger. In Hudson's story, we follow Jim, a tabby cat whose life has been constantly haunted by a mouse named Terry. Starting strong with a no-holds-barred in medias res, the story quickly loses its pacing as Jim recounts his many episodes with Terry that led to that moment. On the plus side, Jim's inner monologue and the scenes set in the present can be quite entertaining.On the other hand we have "Je Reviendrai", a Gothic horror story centering on Georgia, a noblewoman concerned with possessions and her public appearances. On its core, Kirisis' story is good and suspenseful with one of those protagonists that you love to hate by design, yet it is held back by the excessive use of flowery language (which does make sense in context given the narrator, time period, and genre). Moreover, while Georgia does show Anger from time to time, I feel like this story would feel more at home in another circle, Greed or Pride quickly coming to mind."Metal Hellth" by Ferric starts what I'd consider to be the better half of the book. The sole representative of Heresy, "Metal Hellth" deals with Justin, a lead singer from a metal band who ends up performing one last performance before a strange group of spectators. Brutal at times yet whimsical at others, Ferric's tone is a huge contrast with the rest of the anthology, though a welcome addition, indeed. This story quickly became my favorite the first time I was going through the anthology, though little did I know that that spot would get quickly taken away by......"In the Name of Science" by Allison Thai, first story of the seventh circle and the crown jewel of this anthology. Representing Violence Against Others, this story chronicles the live experiments done by Sorae, her father, and the team on war prisoners. Thai's cold and clinical tone, coupled with detailed descriptions of gore and the occasional images, really bring this story to life and hit the gross-out and horror with each passing experiment, each one more deranged than the previous one. If you had to pick any one story to read out of this anthology, make sure to make it this one; I'm sure you won't regret it.However, "A Soul Removed" by Stephen Coghlan is more than worthy enough to stand side by side in the same circle as the previous story. Representing Violence Against The Self, "A Soul Removed" details the life of Seers, a god-fearing bull terrier who starts taking religious doctrines too literally for his own good. Unlike "In the Name of Science", which focused more on the gore and revulsion, Coghlan's story focuses more on dread. More specifically, the anxiousness coming from knowing full well what the protagonist is going to do next and the helplessness that it brings you as a reader. Just like the story before it, "A Soul Removed" excels at what it does, making this my favorite circle in the anthology.Representing the eight circle (Fraud), we have "Waiting" by T.J. Minde. This story's about Xander and Page, a gay couple who... actually, there's not much I can say of the plot without spoiling it. It is said that the purpose of art is to evoke emotions, and, under that definition, Minde's really an artist given all the frustration and fury I ended up feeling while reading it. Without going into details, I'd say that the punishment the protagonist got, fitting as it might be, was not enough for what he did; and this story was the first since "Blur" to leave me with a sour taste after reading it (in the good way, so to speak).Finally, for the last circle, we have "Those Delicate Fingers" by Hypetaph and "The Night Betrayed" by Jaden Drackus. In "Those Delicate Fingers" we follow Maverick, a werewolf looking for a way to end his curse. Technically the only non-furry story in the anthology, Hypetaph's depiction of regret and visceral descriptions are initially really welcomed. However, the over-reliance on those strengths coupled with a lack of world/character building hurt what could have easily turned into another favorite.Last, but definitely not least, "The Night Betrayed" follows a couple of assassins tasked with getting rid of one very specific target by an Emperor. Curiously enough, the only story where the narrator (or narrators) is not the one being punished; Shadow and Ra'jarr's plan is quite interesting and intriguing, though a slow pacing can make it feel longer than it really is. While it does include a little gore, I think that this story just like "The Eyes of Aquana" might feel more at home in a fantasy anthology than in this one.Reviewing an anthology with different authors can be difficult, but, as a whole, the anthology, along with its framing story by Thurston Howl and the accompanying art by Drkchaos, fulfills its purpose in an acceptable manner; however, seeing it by its parts, you can see a few cracks appearing here and there. Stories that don't fit or would serve better somewhere else, the difference in quality and style between stories, and the overall cohesiveness of the anthology leave it with high highs and low lows; though that's to be expected when having to deal with so many authors for a single piece of work.If you're looking for a wholesome, feel-good series, this is definitely not the book for you. However, if you're looking for horror, stories of debauchery and comeuppance, or are a fan of the original work, this anthology might be for you. With 10+ authors you're bound to find more than a few stories that make it worth the price, and it'll be a good warm-up for the next part: Purrgatorio (the puns...).
This is a review of an advance copy we received! The book will come out March 6th with Goal Publications, so keep your eyes out for it.One-time Coyotl award winning and two-time Leo award winning author Frances Pauli has released a full-length novel in her Serpentia universe: Disbanded. Published by Goal Publications, this novel expands on her free short stories available, "Before The All-Dark" and "Feast or Fast." This story follows the adventure of Sookahr, a snake ready to take his final exam to become an architect of The Burrow where he lives.It also takes a look at a society formed by snakes living alongside rodents in its halls. These snakes have vast territories, trade routes, treaties with other species and wars to potentially be fought. The story weaves into its pages a species-accurate representation of such a life. Proper movements, the way snakes actually taste and see, even the very architecture Sookahr would design is all written into the characters and stories allowing a level of immersion few other novels can provide. Sookahr is able to examine the life that society has provided him when given an opportunity to rise above the status currently afforded to him in his caste. Alongside his Kwirk, his mouse aid, he is given the task of redesigning a military outpost against avian attacks. He has to juggle the pressure of this life changing opportunity against potential feelings for a close friend, and a voice in his head that seems to warm him of things to come.Disbanded is the first in what I hope are many Serpentia novels in the future. I not only want to see more of Sookahr going forth to change his world but potentially learn more about how other species operate in the world. Disbanded was a book I simply couldn’t put down until it was finished. While I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys anthropomorphic literature, even moreso if you want to see the world through the eyes of a serpent. Give this book a read: you won’t regret it!
Kyell Gold has once again written an update to a certain tiger and fox’s football adventures adventures in the Forester Universe: Titles. Dev and Lee’s adventures first began their adventures in Out of Position back in 2009 with eight books released before Titles covering their adventures, the life of Dev’s teammate Ty, and a collection of short stories covering many characters through the entire series.A quick warning before we continue: this book does contain mature content. I will also be avoiding any major spoilers, but there may be hints at what happens in the book in this review. If you want to miss any of that, skip to the last paragraph where I’ll talk about recommendations for the book. With that in mind, let’s get back to the book itself!This most recent outing takes place a solid chunk of time after Over Time, the first few chapters setting up for a story that takes place closer to the time we’re in now as we read it. As Dev weighs retirement while chasing a championship ring, Lee juggles a new job offer with getting comfortable in a new family dynamic when his father remarries giving him two new stepbrothers. Or as he learns, as a stepbrother and stepsibling. Lee learns that one of them is genderfluid and helps them along their adventures in trying to discover themselves. Seeing a genderfluid character featured so prominently to me was one of the highlights of the novel: I love stories with diverse characters! The book also explores the current political climate we face today through the lens of a new group in the Forester Universe: The Nativists. It’s interesting to see how anti-immigrant sentiments would play out in an anthropomorphic culture and how it relates to what we face today. Dev and Lee both are able to have different perspectives on the problems Nativists cause through their differing lines of work, though both poke plenty of holes into their horrible ideas on what society should be. I have to give a lot of credit to Kyell on how he tackled this subject matter; it was approached well and tactfully covered.Despite the positives, this book isn’t without its flaws. This is one of the shorter books in the series, and you can feel why when reading through the pages. It lacks some of the magnitude of difficult hurdles the couple has faced in previous novels, the happy ending so obvious from the beginning that it leaves little surprise when it happens at the end. Without giving spoilers, the ‘flirty gay bobcat’ teased on the book’s back cover ended up feeling like such a disappointing storyline to me as well in terms of Dev’s growth through the series, feeling out of character after the events in previous novels. With all these criticisms in mind, I sat down to read this book at 9:30 at night, expecting to read a few chapters before bed. Suddenly 3:33 AM and I had finished the final chapter, amazed at how much time had passed. This book may have weak points, but it’s still a wonderful read. It does feel like the story leaves room for one last book at the end, but if it never comes to be, Titles would be a wonderful cap at the end of a well loved series of novels. I absolutely recommend it to anyone that enjoys Kyell Gold’s works and has loved Dev and Lee’s stories thus far.
Enjoy it, while it lasts.The premise of Furnicate is to build a collection of flash furry erotica. It’s a lofty goal; with many different authors and stories making their way into the anthology, there should be something for everyone. The real challenge in this is that each author must construct a compelling narrative in a short amount of time. For my tastes, I believe that some authors might have benefited from more time as some stories felt flimsy and inconsequential. However, others navigated this challenge with ease, flaunting their literary sexual parts to great effect.“Sex-Furred Stories” by Thurston Howl and KC Alpinus is the embodiment of the challenge of Furnicate, using a mere six words to make a story. It is a collection of pictures painting several erotic situations. There isn’t much form or reason to these stories, simply beating each one into you after the other. While each is strongly sexual in its own right, I would have liked for more organization or structure for the work as a whole. It’s disorienting, and I can’t help but think the work would have been improved with more thought put into the piece rather than just the individual stories. However, these stories do set the tone for the entire collection, preparing the reader for what is to come.“Like Playing a Volkswagen” by TJ Minde depicts a group of friends riding in a bus together. The bus has a special meaning for them, since it’s the bus they ride to their gigs in. The friends are a band, by the way. The Volkswagen bus represents the band’s journey in addition to, as one member puts it, sex with a new partner. The connection was a bit weak for me, and I don’t think I’d ever go to such lengths to turn a crude joke with my friends into something legitimate. But it seemed like the boys accepted it and a new jam began. The story doesn’t have much of a destination, but it got there well enough.Tygacat paints a beautiful picture of an old couple enjoying much more than each other’s company in “Base Desire.” The barely contained desire of a lady raccoon turns into a night of sex. Even though the couple has been through their fair share of engagements, they still get a lot of pleasure out of each other. The reader is easily able to gauge the extent of the couple’s love, and the ensuing pursuit is beautifully coarse. I’m not really used to elderly couples exhibiting their love and need for each other so emphatically; in this way, the story isn’t as believable for me. However, it is still enjoyable and the age of the characters doesn’t detract from the atmosphere at all. If I suspend my own disbelief, their ages may even add to the effect.A mole enjoys a night of sexual pleasure and war-fueled trauma in Mog Moogle’s “Homecoming.” Reality itself is bent as Mog depicts a mole that has just come home from the war. Understandably, Douglass (the mole) finds it difficult to forget the traumatic experiences that appear in the form of flashbacks that blend into a sexual encounter. The result is a wonderfully disorienting merge of two realities. The story is relatable and important; one that needs to be told delicately. The challenge is handled well, and the end result is a rewarding experience. The combination of elements in stream of consciousness doesn’t overwhelm and instead places the reader in a position to better understand the central conflict. To me, it seems like the single best way this story could have been written.When I thought about how DookFiend must have come up with the idea behind “Throwing the Preakness,” I have to admit that I laughed a little. The writing is masterful and the pace starts at a fast clip. Vivid imagery places the reader right in the stall with the stallions. The story is about a horse that threw a prestigious horse race for a breathtaking sexual encounter. So you know it must be a pretty good experience. While I’d like to think about the psychological circumstances that would cause this offer to be agreeable to the horse, I don’t really think that’s the point. I can’t help but think that the entire story was written for the punchline. And it was a pretty good punchline at that. Corny, but good. For me, the ending of the story seemed a little rushed and didn’t have the same strength as the rest of the action. But, like races, stories are sometimes finished before you’re ready for them to be.“Oral Fixation” by Thurston Howl engages both the subject and the reader in a thrilling guessing game involving a tongue and several…surfaces. The scene is set as the subject is bound and deprived of all senses except for the pertinent ones. And then the tasting begins. The imagery and presentation in this story is done masterfully, placing the reader in a similar situation as the subject albeit a little more comfortable. The evaluation process as the surfaces are identified also seems real and methodical. Whoever was bound was much better at this game than I was!Stubs McGee creates a frustratingly realistic VR meeting place for animals of all kinds in “The White Rabbit.” I say frustratingly realistic because of the small ever-present annoyances that seem to interrupt at every possible moment. Whether it be broken servers or incorrectly calibrated equipment, these small reminders of reality don’t do enough to halt the hookup between the titular rabbit and a Doberman. The dialogue is just the right amount of awkward, perfect for the scene. The world that McGee creates seems like it could easily exist in the next 10 years. This story seems similar to Striking Vipers from the Netflix series Black Mirror, except with animals. And less exposition. It is told well all the same and the characters are easy to empathize with.Two carnivores meet in a room and start eating each other. No, that isn’t the start to a joke, it’s “Teeth” by Rechan. In this one, a lioness engages in dangerous play with a wolf. Involving teeth, described in thrilling detail as they come oh so close to tearing their prey apart. The extent to which these partners know exactly what they want with just the smallest signals is depicted in an exceptional fashion. It’s a delicate dance between the two, walking the tightrope between pleasure and severe pain. It is thrilling for the reader as well as the action stretches on, dangling them tantalizingly from the jaws of the story. This one runs its full course, leaving nothing else to be desired.We’ve all been home alone, wishing for the warm embrace of our significant other. Or otter, as it were. “The Third” from Riley Black has one such otter yearning for her mate. She obsessively takes pictures searching for one to elicit a response. After she sends it, the interaction goes in a direction she wasn’t quite expecting as her mate says he was thinking about her having sex with someone else all day. The “third” that was alluded to in the title. The interaction gets harried at this point as the pair presumably indulge in their liquid excitement. I have to say I enjoyed the writing for this one. The phone texts seemed forced at times, but the tension built from waiting for a response was relatable. The surprising change in direction was interesting and put the conversation in an unexpected light. Using the words lutrine and tenrec to describe the characters made me laugh as well. In the end, an enjoyable piece.“The Dare” by Ferric the Bird is pretty to the point. A group of friends tells each other about their sex lives; Lisa the rabbit had the title of “best at oral” and had to defend her title. By signing up for a slot at a local glory hole of course. She doesn’t quite know what to expect but still has her skills to fall back on. The story was alright; it spent a lot of time on the lead-up and made the actual action seem too short. It was moderately detailed and coherent but too straightforward for my tastes. Lisa’s night lasted for far longer than I was able to enjoy this story. While it’s a good thing to leave your audience wanting more, not giving it enough in the first place doesn’t satisfy.“The Precipice” from Russell Rottie is exactly that: a dizzying fall hurtling straight off the cliff of literary sanity. Two lovers are in the middle of an orgy, the goal of which is to get them to levels of arousal they’ve never reached before. Every action in the story is described with fantastic detail and clarity. Special attention was given to the sounds made and the meaning behind them and that painted a vivid picture of the ravages these two underwent. There isn’t much other than action here. The motivation is primal and the pleasure is pure. Rottie keeps the story fast paced and full of motion while keeping the reader from getting too lost. While this one does require more attention to keep up with, it is more than welcome as you’re able to fully enjoy the rollicking narrative.Furnicate’s goal is a difficult one to complete. It requires skillful writers and heavy commitment to making every word count. I believe that many of the authors featured in this anthology succeeded in that. I would have liked for a little more attention given to grammar and spelling as there were a few mistakes that took away from the overall effect; however, most of them are easy fixes. The organization was fine, I think the placement of certain stories was meant to beat you over the head with the fact that this is flash fiction. I think the beginning of this collection could have been much stronger after seeing the stories that were included in it, but the overall quality of the inclusions was satisfying.The variety of environments and situations depicted in this collection make it suitable for most erotica readers. There’s something in this for nearly everyone and, while many of the stories cut the experience short, enough of them should hit the mark to make the read worth it.
From folktales like "Stone Soup" to modern-day anime like Restaurant To Another World, people have been fascinated with stories based around the foods we eat. The Furry Cookbook, edited by Thurston Howl, seeks to explore these concepts through a unique lens only available with anthropomorphic characters. As Thurston puts it himself, “You get to deal with whole new elements: predator-prey dynamics, ethics of cannibalism, vegetarianism, heightened senses, and even food law.” Each of the nine stories in this anthology comes with a unique recipe you can cook yourself at home to fully immerse yourself in the works. These are accompanied by pictures with the ‘hosts’ for the book Destry Roden and Rakedu which add wonderful levity after reading through some of the darker themes within. As a fair warning, these stories can deal with erotic or other adult themes so this book is for those eighteen and older. With this in mind, let’s talk about the stories!The Flower Of CarnageIn this story, Cedric G! Bacon explores the hellscape of a war zone and the effects it can have on those that live in it. Quincy is an aging feline that was able to live through the war, thanks to the help of the shrewd Olga Koch. In a warzone, no one can be picky about what they have to eat but Quincy and Olga both end up consuming what might be considered a delicacy: The Flower Of Carnage. Quincy, now much older, is looking to try this dish with Olga one last time. This story explores some dark themes in a most fascinating fashion, an excellent story to start off the book. My attention was fully held from start to finish, and the ending left me wanting more, the greatest praise for any story!The Greatest Steak"A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach" is a common enough phrase, but does it apply to ladies as well? Alison ‘Cybera’ Cybe writes about a college-aged squirrel named Ricky trying to win the affections of a mouse that frequents the diner where he works. The story is cute enough, if a bit short. The end to this tale is a guaranteed smile however, making it a worthwhile read.The Diner’s ClubWould you eat lab-grown meat? Ever wonder how the sausage is made? Elmer is a lion working for Synth-Pro making lab-grown meats for purchase and consumption. Seeing just how his meal is made every day has made him weary of food, but a fellow lab tech named Victor knows just how to help: an exclusive dining club. Elmer quickly learns that maybe a salad is the better option after an unforgettable meal gets him wrapped up in unbelievable trouble. The idea of lab-grown meat eliminating the need to slaughter animals is a big thing to consider, and Frances Pauli explored it well. The small outro to the story he wrote was also an excellent look into what inspired this great piece of fiction. Bucking The TrendBe they smores of pudgie pies everyone has a favorite campfire meal. "Bucking The Trend" by Madison Keller not only looks at food but talks about being trans through a unique anthro experience which I found very enjoyable. Theo, the main character of the tale, ends up sharing a surprise meal with a stranger around the campfire. Good stories, good food, and good company could lead to something even better. A Slice Of A Non-Invasive Species’ LifeHow can you sustainably supply meat in a world with anthropomorphic carnivores and herbivores living together? Is it okay to let carnivores eat those that have died? What about if some animals aren’t sentient, is it still wrong to eat them as an animal yourself?In this story by Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, when a deer and his wife invite over a wolf for dinner all these questions and more are on the table, alongside a home-cooked Danish meal. An exchange between the cultures of wolves and deer lays the backdrop for a look into what this kind of world might be like. Even with just a short story, the world is built up wonderfully. It would be interesting to see more stories in a similar setting.SprinklesA brief warning, this story by Al Song does contain rape elements as roleplay. If this is something you are uncomfortable with, this story is not for you. With this in mind, the story makes it very clear that it has a roleplay scene within and has a warning like this before it as well. Both were excellent touches.This story took a sharp turn in the middle I wasn’t expecting. The transition of storytelling style was a bit abrupt, but it led into a creative story. How do you manage to help your partner get into shape when normal personal training methods don’t seem to work? This story is a sexy look at unique ideas to do just that. It’s as enjoyable as the cookie dough recipe at the end (yes, I had to give it a try)!Blind Taste TestThis story by Kevin Miles gets deliciously naughty but does so in a thoughtful way. To anyone that has delved into the world of kinky play or BDSM, they may remember just how intimidating it could all be at first. Amanda is a mouse going through these exact feelings as her girlfriend Carol tries to help her get comfortable and enjoy herself in a most unique way. This story not only talks about proper consent and setting scenes for play but also keeps things saucy and exciting until the climax.Cedar HouseWhat if one day you could suddenly turn into an animal? I know plenty of people would love their new powers! What if however, it wasn’t your choice? Or those with these powers were forced away into havens away from normal society, how would you deal with a loved one suddenly changing and being forced to leave your side?Fenrir Black takes a look at questions like these as Rachel goes to a haven to meet her boyfriend. Her boyfriend has become an anthropomorphic Therian Lion and has been living at Cedar House the past three years. Over a picnic lunch, we learn a lot about the struggles found by Therians in this world and the struggles of trying to date and love someone quarantined from regular society. It’s a touching story filled with strong emotional conflict. This anthology took stories from the serious to sexy and combined them all together for an enjoyable read. It’s always a good sign when you suddenly realize some hours have passed that you missed as you were too enthralled to put a book down. This collection of stories is wonderful for any fan of food in general, but even more so those that like to dig deep into a story and think. The stories presented, even some of the naughtier ones, are done so with nuance providing quandaries worth considering in depth. This is the kind of anthology that sticks with you a while after reading: I would highly recommend it.
Billi Wolf’s Splice: Conditioning promises wild erotica from the very beginning, heady escapes from the characters’ lives in a world that leaves everyone suffering the effects of global warming, and the anthropomorphic dog residents as slaves. This first story in the world of Splices weaves together the lives of two pairs of Splice and human partners, in a tale that begins in a dystopian megacity, followed by fleeing to a spacious Nebraska farm start up. The Splices themselves are genetically modified dogs of varying breeds that can be bought and sold for a variety of tasks, often companions and pleasure partners. They are all human-sized with human intelligence, with very human emotions. German Shepherd Splice Kaleb is markedly different from his fellow canids, and that attracts unwanted attention from the company responsible for his creation. Another Splice joins their little harem, introducing them to the Freedom For Splices (FFS) revolution. Intense action and intrigue builds the world, and brings the heroes face to face with dangers they never imagined, intertwining their lives forever.Honestly, I enjoyed Splice: Conditioning. It felt a little clunky to begin with, but was certainly heavy on the erotica as promised by the author in the foreword. Once it gets rolling, it is an easy, fast-paced read. The characters are all likable with their own flaws and fears. Some of the anatomy is questionable in a couple of the sex scenes, but by no means does it ruin the fun. I will admit that the promise of Weredogs had me confused, as the anthropomorphic dogs in the story are full time furry. I’m wondering if that just means that with further genetic manipulation we’ll see transformation in the future.If you’re looking for a story that openly plays with sexuality, with a smattering of hypnosis and foot fetishes, you’re in for a great time. The plot, when it does happen, is icing on the cake. If you blush easily, I wouldn’t read this one in public, despite the tame title.
On first glance at the well-decorated reindeer on the inside cover I knew I'd possibly be in for...well exactly what I'd signed up for when agreeing to do my first review of a more, risqué anthology in the genre of furry literature.The 12 Days of Yiffmas, by title, leaves little to the imagination. A compilation of twelve winter holiday-inspired short stories with more raunch in them than a similarly named salad dressing. Accompanied by a soundtrack with an introduction done by Howl and 12 somewhat, campy Yiffmas carols to help you envelop yourself in the holiday cheer. Beyond that, there's also an accompanying art piece for every interaction to ensure your full immersion with a handy-dandy visual aid.Every story is introduced by our narrator with Howl and guests and the antics they get up to every new story much like those little holiday specials they tend to love rerunning ad-infinitum and does add a new flavour to how one can approach this anthology. Beyond this, they also took the time to give certain trigger warnings where appropriate. I appreciated this. Especially with some of the topics that were covered in the anthology. With that said, let's delve right on in."A (Not yet) Merry Christmas" by White Claw. Illustrated by TabaxitaxiThe story follows a surly dalmatian named David, who finds their scroogy, business-sona slowly being enamoured by the addition of the smallest amount of mint liquor and a few Christmas related movies (one horror) by our far more Christmas-inspired deer named Ollie.An interesting lead-up into this smut inspired anthology. It ensures that we take some levity in our holiday-making in what is certainly one of the more clichéd entries. Our characters are easily identified, and it does end with a very Hallmark “we all learned something here folks” message, even when it's found in the midst of a satisfyingly written dog-on-deer “action” scene. Our characters are written into their roles well and with the raunchy conclusion and afterglow it reads like a Hallmark holiday special but for Porn-hub."Freyr's Game" by Faolan. Illustrated by JakensitouThis story follows an anthro snake named Lysander, in the throes of winter's regret for their own species, who gets invited by their friend, a white goat named Christian, to try a new kind of party, a Yule celebration. (I only realized the irony of this as I wrote it.)True to form it doesn't take long for the clothes to come off, the drink to flow and the festivities to be had. Multiple interspecies mingling in the menagerie, along with a ménage à trois somewhere in the mix.Our characters are well-fleshed out, well-considered and very open to the possibilities of a Yule feast. There was no shying away from tradition nor the partaking of it. Solid premise and a solid execution. Especially when it came to the stranger bits of anatomical correctness."Where the Lovelight Gleams" by Colin Leighton. Illustrated by FaukxChristmas aboard the USS O Riordan, 1943, near the Solomon Islands is where the next short story takes place. Enter the lone Ensign Grady Turner on watch at the helm. His captain, Robert Ferrandin, joins him for a quiet chat about what could be missed on these long nights at sea. What follows is one of the gems of this anthology with good pacing and narrative nous that sometimes gets lost in the creation of a short story focused on sexual exploits. However, my own bias for stories like Brokeback Mountain probably shines through here.This story manages to find the niche that mixes both emotion as well as passion in a well-crafted package and delivers our characters from their situation fraught with danger to a place of peace and release. And maybe a bit of regret. Truth be told I got a bit emotional with this one. Wonderful piece of writing. I am truly hoping to see more from the writer."Do not Open Until Xmas" by Kuroko. Illustrated by TabaxitaxiAn interesting premise, once again focusing on a more open and interesting relationship. Our main character, a red panda named Devon, is, thrust...or, will be thrusting, into the secret life of his partner, Isaac at a high-end house of pleasure. He's forced to make a few life-altering choices. Accept his lover's unconventional working environment or forever lose them because of his own initially prudish consternation.Very intriguing use of some of the kinds of bits and bobs one would find being administered for the subservience of your partner. "Yule Carol" by Cedric G! Bacon. Illustrated by StedilnikAdd this one to the “stories that made me tear up” pile. A vixen named Kyo from Japan had fallen in love with an American coyote named Heath who was taken too soon by fate. She finds a way be able to spend one night, Yule, with him again. Her preparations are meticulous so that she would be able to feel his embrace.I honestly have so much to say about this and very few ways to hopefully do it justice. I guess maybe the idea that if “Full Metal Alchemist” had a way to do the ritual right in some sense.Poignant, heartbreaking and possibly something I'd consider doing if I lost my soul-mate. Brilliant narration and brilliantly written. It's also the attention to detail in respect to cultural nuance that really helps me feel so engrossed with the story.I'd need to mention that of the compositions, not only is Carol of the Bells one of my favourite Christmas songs (read only one I like), but the adaptation for this story was on point and added to that feeling of loss that this story brought."Ice Fishing with Nick" by Sisco Polaris. Illustrated by BoneitisBrokeback Mountain thoughts come to mind again, this time with the more, “going on a fishing trip” vibe. Hot steamy and risqué all around. It makes for an interesting interaction between the two as some of the back story that our author provides makes for some really intriguing fan theory with Rudolph X Santa aficionados. Add in some Bojack-like devil-may-care attitude and you have a pretty solid solitary-cabin in the woods romp.Our characters were written in a way that there's a certain focus on lore, who they'd probably have shacked up with and even the church gets a mention here with all their rules and restrictions.Overall a fun little romp with a small unexpected twist near the end."Band Over" by Miles Reaver. Illustrated by Iudicium“Rock Star” vibes to some extent from this story. Dropped in hot on the introduction to our protagonists Owen and Rick, one an asexual fox and the other a very sex-forward wolf. Let's just say, showing “the horns” in their opening scene may in fact be a little more than risqué...probably dangerous.Owen is also family to the two foxes who made it big as part of the biggest openly gay rock band in this world. I am all for this story. All credit to our author for making this a believable part of the twincest trope. I feel bad for our co-protagonist, inasmuch as I feel these pangs of regret for my partner, but it has done a lot for hopefully bridging that gap.There's a lot to unpack beyond the sexual nature of this story, and it does well to maintain both believability as well as interest in the side-plot. Big-ups for that. The climax of this story has an extremely well-considered point of view with both character progression as well as gently looking at the details from either side of the spectrum."Snow-Plowed" by Nathanial “LeCount” Edwards. Illustrated by TabsleyWith a very dark accompanying song and some major warnings in respect to dark thematic content, I found it difficult to read this. I assume that was the point. Our story follows a duel protagonist/antagonist perspective with a homophobic bully and his victim and the way their initial encounters set up their evening encounter.The way the story juxtaposes the two encounters during this story and attempts to meld them together scene by scene is commendable. For the more dark parts I'm glad that most of these Freddy Krueger-esque nightmares only exist in dreams. I genuinely feel unnerved by the way this was written. Which in this case means that our author achieved their goal. The minor key rendition of the accompanying song, listened to after the reading, sent a couple of unsettling shivers down my spine. I need a topped-up glass of something strong after that. If you're into horror-themed juxtaposition, this is your go-to in the anthology."Family Comes First" by Ferric. Illustrated by FlowamaiWhat to do when you're a dragon in a world of mammals? Two brothers from different clutches, Tyler and Tony, meet over the holidays and times that they can go home to enjoy the comfort of each-other's embrace. This is an interesting story; it makes for some good plot points. Also seems somewhat Hallmark-y. However the interplay between the two of them and the slight jibes they give one another still seems believable and adds an interesting twist in the mix of their...machinations. A solid story for what it sets out to do."Thirty-Nine-and-a-Half-Foot Pole" by Thurston Howl. Illustrated by ErkhyanAdaptation rules supreme as we follow our pro- er, antagonist The Bulf. Emphasis on capitalisation. He rides in with his...Reindeer? Jay and steals all the townsfolk's questionable Yiffmas toys! Oh no! Doubt that would stop them...A titular look at a more yiffy variation on our tale of the Grinch. I will however voice my own displeasure of Thurston's criticism of the colour green. Beyond that, a fair retelling of the debauched nature of the furs from Furville. Seriously, feels like I walked into one of the adult MUCK rooms.Special props to the song here as well!"Jingle Hell" by Patrick D. Lambert. Illustrated by Joseph ChouSpeculative fiction, with the fear of Krampus. Horn dogs all around might enjoy this! Alphonse, our main character, a subservient rottweiler, finds himself visited by Krampus one quiet, near Christmas day. His offence? Numerous, one of which is unabatedly teasing his neighbour with his open curtain antics.Very low-key, to-the-point short story and does a fair job in set-up and progression. It felt a bit disjointed in places but for its purpose the story served ably."Waggy" by TJ Minde. Illustrated by IudiciumA holiday get away with a mixed furry x human couple. In Hayden our human and Wagner (aka Waggy). The two of them begin their journey of self-discovery and pup-play on this trip with every day being part of the learning curve.There was a lot of information put into this particular short story in its emphasis on how pup play is engaged in. It spoke at length about how BDSM is a trust exercise and the characters brought that to light pretty faithfully.This focus in and of itself lends very well to the overall feel of the story and for anyone curious in reading about what can be described as a first-hand emotion-driven narrative to full realisation in the topic (this without being coerced into it by RL questioning), this story does surprisingly well.Our anthology wraps up with a short word from every author and artist involved and asks them for what kind of yiffy gifts they'd like for the holiday and helps bring a small bit of insight into every contributor.While I had a few notes on some of the songs and the singers, I felt the album did go a long way to bring that cheesy Christmas spirit to full mast and was done competently both in composition as well as execution. The album is a bonus on buying the anthology itself and the premise of listening to each song after reading is a fun little immersion tool.While every story and author had their positive points and achieved their varied goals, I'd like to point out that Colin Leighton, Cedric G! Bacon, Miles Reaver and TJ Minde's stories were personal favourites to me. Once again, this is due to my own personal bias and some might not see them the same way I saw in them.Special thanks as always to Thurston for being our narrator on this trip and for the content warnings that were a nice touch especially when dealing with some of the topics the short stories did.
Despite the title of this book, this is less of an erotica book and more of a bioengineering sci fi book.The premise of Gephardt's book is basic enough: a super-intelligent canine works as a forensics detective to help solve cases and then typical spy plots go through.In general, the plot bored me a bit. I wanted something a bit more evolved from the typical "pet detective" narrative, seen in films like Garfield 2, Cats & Dogs, and even Detective Pikachu: evolved animal shows off their skills to viewer/reader, gets a new case, finds clues only they can recognize, no one believes them, but they solve the case anyway. This book generally followed that narrative, and it made me lose interest in the particulars of the mystery.But what this book lacks in plot and creativity it makes up for in side characters (granted, I do like the main character XK9 Rex a lot). Even from the first chapter, I was instantly hooked to all of the character subplots and motivations. I was less interested in the main mystery and even the world-building. It was the character interactions that really sold the book to me. Gephardt excels at making characters shine with both complexity and empathy, and this is a book I would assign as a case study in character interactions.If you are a fan of the typical spy intrigue or sci fi action genres, this might be a perfect book for you. If you like heavy character novels,this would be a book for you. If you don't like either, you might consider looking elsewhere.
The novella, Mind of a Witness, is an “OthEarth” story, or a tale which is set in an alternate history where magic is quite real and the existence of ogres and werewolves (or lupines) is part and parcel. This particular tale follows the Queen’s Witness, a human named Andy chosen by the Queen to be bonded to her and function as an extension of her will. Of course, enemies are afoot, the Queen has fallen for a Lupine prince, and somebody wants someone dead. Several attacks on Andy and the wolf prince, Gnarl, suggest the target is either the Queen herself, or one of them, and an investigation ensues with Andy and Gnarl at the lead. Mind of a Witness is an engaging story and a fun twist on history that is well researched and full of intriguing characters and concepts. The relationship between Andy and the Queen is unique and original and I enjoyed the exploration of discrimination between the humans and lupines, and between various classes and professions of humans, a great deal. The writing waxes a bit “telling” in places, and the action is bogged down in technical jargon that is likely fascinating for a student of fencing but felt a bit like the author trying too hard to share all his research with the reader. It stalled the flow for me in places as did the times when the characters used modern turns of phrase or spoke in ways that seemed out of period for the timeline chosen. Not only did the dialog wax modern in places, there were times when the choice of verbiage made the characters seem suddenly much younger than they’d been portrayed. Despite these few quibbles, the story really held my interest. I liked the characters and felt good rooting for them, and the detailed research will be a big draw for fans of history, fantasy, and the two working in tandem. The ending, however, came very quickly and without much resolution. The story stops in mid-step and nothing is really resolved or answered for the reader. This gave the novella the feel more like the first installment in a serial than a complete story in its own right, and if the reader wants to know exactly what was going on and what the answers are, they’ll most definitely need to seek out a future sequel.
Before tackling M. C. A. Hogarth’s Kherishdar’s Exception, the fourth book in the series, potential readers should start with one of the earlier books: The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, The Admonishments of Kherishdar, or Black Blossom. The first two books are more accessible: interrelated collections of short-short stories (500 words or so). Aphorisms comprises various vignettes of Farren—a calligrapher/artist—and his interactions with customers and friends. Admonishments follows Kor, Kherishdar’s “Shame,” a traveling judge of sorts, who’s duty is to ‘correct’ rather than punish various lawbreakers. These corrections are supposed to bring the guilty back into ‘harmony with their ishas,’ (spirit) , but a lot of these corrections seem to involve ropes, whips, gags and public humiliations, so I guess one culture’s correction is another’s punishment.The Kherishdar books feature nominally furry aliens, the Ai-Naidari. Their furriness is what the late Fred Patten would refer to as “window dressing,” i.e., the characters are described as being furry, but they don’t do anything that a human wouldn’t or couldn’t do. They’re basically human-shaped, but a bit taller, a lot thinner, with long necks, cat ears and tails. More interesting than their appearance is their society, which is extremely hierarchical, conformist and xenophobic. It’s a world of polite people, where everyone is nice to each other, citizens are happy with their station in life, and there’s no social discord. They’re ruled by Therukedi, a benevolent, immortal emperor, who oversees a complicated social structure of Regals, Nobles, ministers, public servants and so on. There ‘s little opportunity for personal advancement—if you’re not born a Regal or Noble, you’re stuck. But it’s all good, because the Regals and Nobles take their nobeless oblige VERY seriously, and if they abuse their power they get a visit from Shame.With a few exceptions, the world of the Ai-Naidari ‘s is very low-tech. People either walk or ride ‘beasts.’ The only real SF element are the world gates, ancient structures that allow instant passage to various colony worlds. In both Aphorisms and Admonishments there is talk of (and brief encounters with) ‘aliens,’ called aunera. They’re not described or really interacted with until the novel Black Blossom, where a group of Ai-Naidari have become ‘tainted’ by dealing with aunera, who turn out to be a small colony of humans. It’s unclear if there are any other alien species known on Kherishdar.Kherishdar’s Exception is told in first person by the Ai-Naidari Haraa, and takes up directly after Black Blossom. Formerly a ‘Decoration’ (sort of a Geisha/courtesan that’s owned by a particular house or family) Haraa is now living in a blended household with Kor, Farren and a number of other people. She’s charged by the Emperor, Thirukedi, to learn the human’s language and society. That sounds interesting, but it mostly serves as an author soapbox to expound on the evils of abortion and the hypocrisy of making pets of some animals and eating others. The humans come off as dolts, incapable of (or unwilling to) explain the complex biological, evolutionary and the societal forces that shape human behavior.Most of the direct human interaction is in the first part of the story, and early on it looked like things might get exciting when one of the humans is openly hostile to Haraa due to events that happened in the previous book. But she ends up making friends with him, along with the other humans she gets to know. Later on the narration shifts to Haraa’s interaction with various members of her household, including an unrequited crush on Farren (who views her as a daughter), discussions about relationships (including a gay couple who are romantically involved but don’t have sex) and ongoing conversations with the Emperor Thirukedi about the humans. When another member of the household has a baby, Haraa is so overwhelmed with baby love that she immediately decides to have one too. A male character helpfully obliges with some great sex, despite declaring in a previous volume he didn’t want children. Only in the latter part of the book does anything external happen that throws Haraa’s ordered world into chaos, if only briefly. We find out that the Ai-Naidari are so xenophobic that they’d rather let their people die than accept any help from the human colonists, an attitude that is not really explained, particularly since the first two books had scenes with aliens being out and about (if accompanied) among them.And what of the Exception, the title character? She is the one person among all the Ai-Naidari who has no caste or rank and can comment on society with impunity, which makes her a potentially fascinating character. Unfortunately we see her only a few times, briefly, saying some rude things that upset Haraa. Other than the Exception the most intriguing character is Therukedi, whom Haraa adores so much she’s sent into orgasmic bliss simply by his touch. This volume does answer the question about who and what the Emperor is, and gives some background on the development of their society, so if you’ve wondered about that after reading the previous books then there is some payoff.Would I recommend any of the Kherishdar books? The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar, yes, if only because their format and brevity keep things moving. The novels are another story (so to speak.). If you’re looking for a dynamic page-turner with action, conflict and suspense, look elsewhere. If you’re interested in a long, meandering tale about relationships, personal introspection and Ai-Naidari cultural customs, you might want to give Black Blossom and Kherishdar’s Exception a try.