by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Off the Beaten Path, by Rukis. Illustrated by the author.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2014, trade paperback $19.95 (385 pages).
“This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region.”
“When I turned thirteen years of age, the village elder told me I had become a woman. When I had turned fourteen years of age, my mother told me I had become a burden. When I had turned fifteen years of age, my father told me I had become a wife. He had been paid [by] a man from the Anukshen to take me away from everything I knew and every person I cared for, to become his third wife.” (p. 9)
This is one of those books that is almost impossible to review without giving away spoilers. Basically, except for the anthropomorphic-animal and fantasy-world aspects, the setting is North America shortly after the British colonies along the Eastern Coast have won their independence. Shivah, the narrator (bobcat), is a young woman of a native tribe in a valley beyond the “Otherwolf” lands. She has only known two tribes, her own Katoshen and the neighboring Anukshen. They barely tolerate each other, grudgingly trading together. Both are extremely patriarchal, treating women as little more than slaves and baby-making machines. Shivah is married against her will to Methoa’nuk, an arrogant and brutal Anukshen Honored Warrior for two horses and a brick of salt. Despite her attempts to be a “good wife”, she disgraces him (or maybe he just blames his disgrace on her). Methoa kills their year-old son, and encourages the Anukshen to stone her to death. She recovers consciousness weeks later, having been nursed back to health by two wandering trappers from faroff differing tribes, Ransom, a tall coyote, and Puck (Puquanath Roatok), a blind white fox medicine man who “sees” with his ears: