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The finale to the Paladin Trilogy
Novella by Ryan Campbell
A lucky purchase
This collection of five very different novellas showcases the wide range of furry fandom, and the many different directions our authors can take it. Neither Phil Geusz's bunnymen nor Bernard Doove's chakats appeal to me a great deal; I admire the worlds each author has built, but they don't click with me. Nevertheless, both Geusz's bunny sheriff and Doove's telepathic alien were competently written. For me, the real meat of the anthology was the middle three stories, each by an author I would go out of my way to read. The star of the collection was Renee Carter Hall's Huntress, set in a fantasy Africa of anthropomorphic lions and other fauna. The world was both fascinating and convincingly different, with strong, compelling characters and a plot that drew me in and made me empathise deeply with the heroine's struggle to find her place in society. Watts Martin is one of my favourite furry authors and I would read literally anything he penned. In this case, it's a detective story set in a world shared by furries and humans, although the central mystery is far less important than the fun of watching the main characters strike sparks off each other. Then, a slice of life from Mary E. Lowd's post-human world of 'uplifted' cats, dogs and otters. This is an alternate reality I love, and although dog and cat society has its problems and prejudices, it's still somewhere I'd like to live. In When A Cat Loves A Dog, the relationship of a dog and cat couple is put under stress by both familial disapproval and the difficulty of adopting kittens or puppies into a mixed-species marriage. There should be something for all tastes in this anthology, and the novella-length format means there's more to get your teeth into than with a standard short story collection. Recommended.
Your mileage my vary
As much as I hate to say it, I found this book disappointing. It started off so well with the first two stories, Chosen People by Phil Geusz and Huntress by Renee Carter Hall. 171 pages of excellent writing and it should've stopped there. This is one of the reasons I'm a fan of shorter collections and I wish editors would stop stuffing anthologies into the three and four hundred page count just to add length. Of the five stories, four were from established worlds created by the authors in other works, only Huntress was an original piece and it was easily the stand out. One of the issues I have with trying to read a story based in an already established universe is the questions it brings up. If you had read the original work these were based on, you may get the questions answered, but the author forgets to clarify things for newcomers now experiencing things for the first time in these spinoffs. For example, Chosen People deals with Lapism, a group of people who went through a modification to become anthropomorphic rabbits. But the question becomes, why only rabbits? It's never explained, and all it would take is a few sentences but I immediately start to think if people were to undertake such a process, there would be those who would want to be something other than rabbits. Wolves, dogs, cats, and the question lingered through the entire story. Luckily, the writing and the story prevailed here. The same thing happened with When A Cat Loves A Dog by Mary Lowd. Why only cats, dogs, and otters? Why would humans only uplift those animals and not others? It would only take a few sentences or a paragraph to explain but the author choose not to and the question lingered, annoyingly while I read. Maybe other readers don't analyze like me, but it made enjoyment difficult. But more than that, the other stories felt boring and contrived. I wasn't drawn in like I was with the first two stories. The others had little tension and they felt forced and drawn out, like they were short stories stretched and bloated into novellas. Again, I wish editors and publishers would look at editing and publishing the same as writing. Cutting is good. Excess isn't always better. To be honest, I skipped the last three stories after doing my best to wrestle through a third of each but I simply lost interest. Be it boring, vague characters where in some places, I had no idea what they were supposed to be and just had a blank void in my head wondering are these anthropomorphic characters and if so, what kind? Or the story dragged through bland segments that felt tacked on for length or the characters' decisions seemed odd and the worldbuilding felt not very well thought out. As much as I hate to say it, the collection is really well done for the first 171 pages. And those two should be read. The other three, your mileage my vary.
20 anthropomorphic short stories from across the last century.