Legacy, by Hugo Jackson – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The map of Eeres on pages iv and v shows only a few land masses amidst many oceans and seas; the result of a prehistoric cataclysm 2,500 years earlier. Millions were killed, the whole world was reshaped, and the few survivors were too desperately trying to survive to keep any civilization or record of the past. All that remained, when a new civilization began to come together centuries later, were legends of a glorious, hardly believable past, and of the unknown disaster that had destroyed it. And a name – Nazreal – of the only city from that forgotten past known (or believed) to have existed for sure.
As Legacy begins, all Eeres (or Cadon, its largest continent and the location of the more important independent city-states) is abuzz with the news that the latest discovery from pre-cataclysmic times may lead to the lost city of Nazreal itself. This sets off a hurricane of hopes and fears; hopes that some of the legendary benefits may be reintroduced to civilization, and fears that what destroyed the past world will also be found again. More troubling is that Dhraka, a city far to the southwest of Cadon, is where the ancient artifact has been found. Dhraka is also dominated by aggressive dragons led by the militant Fulkore Crawn. (The other city-states are inhabited by various furry mammals.) There are worries that Dhraka may follow up its discovery to find something that will allow it to take over all Eeres. Even if the discovery is useless, Dhraka could use its search for Nazreal as a cover for militaristic expansion.
Sinédrion, the most sophisticated city of Cadon and the social leader, is the venue of Eeres’ Senate where representatives of the different city-kingdoms debate. The usual boring debates are turned into a turmoil when Fulkore comes to ask (a thinly veiled demand) that the other cities help Dhraka in its search. He especially wants access to the archives of Xayall, the fox-led city that has been researching the legends of the past for centuries. But Fulkore refuses to describe just what Dhraka has found; also, Xayall is the closest city to Dhraka, and it has suspected Dhraka of wanting to annex it for a long time. Aidan Phiraco, the Emperor of Xayall, refuses to let any of the dragons inside Xayall.
Chapter 1 is misleading, because the protagonist of Legacy is Faria Phiraco, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Emperor Aidan. She is the child of a red fox father and a fennec mother, and a blend of both. She is the representative in Xayall of Aidan in his absence, and a student of science/magic, both of what has been rediscovered and of new developments; specializing in the use of crystals for resonance manipulation. Both Faria and her father suspect that, with Xayall’s formal refusal to help Dhraka, the dragons will begin unofficial warfare against them. Aidan is reluctant to let her leave the walled city any more for fear of assassination.
When Dhraka strikes sooner and more ruthlessly than expected, Faria must escape from the city, find allies, warn the other cities, and discover the secret of Nazreal.
In addition to Faria, major characters in Legacy include Tierenan Cloud, a cyborg raccoon whom Faria frees from Dhrakan mind control; Aeryn and Kyru, two wolf mercenaries; and their adversary, Vionaika, Dhraka’s sadistic commander; a hyena/feline/dragon hybrid. Tierenan, Kyru, and Aeryn are shown with Faria on the wraparound cover by Minna Sundberg (Finnish author/artist of the completed online anthro comic strip A Redtail’s Dream). The adventures of these four, and their pursuer, take them by land and sea across Eeres, from humble carts and boats to fantastic airships, meeting anthros from mundane mammals and reptiles (“An iguana and a sailfin lizard deftly scaled the sterncastle to attend to the three-pronged mast on top.” – p. 185) to Osiris, a gryphon.
Legacy ends with a lengthy, exhausting conclusion, but there is a happy ending. However, don’t relax yet, because this is only Book One of the Resonance Tetralogy. Books Two through Four will be Fracture, Ruin’s Dawn, and Resonance End.
Legacy is very satisfying. Jackson brings a complex and colorful anthro world to life. His descriptions are full of lush detail:
“They rounded a corner and descended a set of large, sweeping stairs; this was one of the main entrances to the building. Aidan could hear the bustling of the citizens in the streets outside.
When they reached the large iron door at the base, two bulky guards hauled it open, revealing the eminent city of Sinédrion laid out before them, colours ablaze in the late evening’s low vermillion sun. A large river curved majestically around the Senate chamber, wearing luxurious bridges like a uniform of office.
Their carriage awaited them: an elegant design in dark wood with green and gold trim. Tall, horse-like dinosaur creatures with long tails, Theriasaurs, stood proudly at its head awaiting their command to move. The Xayall emblem, a white fox on a shield of blue flame, had been carved into the vehicle’s doors. A troop of mounted soldiers were stood to attention behind it; a silent, respectful welcome to their Emperor.” (p. 13)
Jackson’s worst fault is an overuse of emotionally-charged adjectives and adverbs such as “proud bridges” (p. 15). They become pejorative when describing the antagonists, such as “[…] Fulkore, who, although keeping his body absolutely still behind the plinth, had a vicious fire in his eyes” (p. 9) and “the vile hyena” (p. 326). These make it overly clear that the antagonists are not merely antagonists, they are black-hearted villains. Some of the descriptions go on too long, such as the first overview of Xayall which covers a page and a half. A few words are misused; the losing side in a fight is constantly being “decimated”. A full-page About the Author identifies Jackson as living in Raleigh, North Carolina, yet Legacy is full of British spellings and from an English publisher. There are occasional very old-fashioned constructions, like “were stood to attention” that most authors haven’t used in a century.
These are minor nitpicks, however. Basically, this is a fast-moving, richly-detailed adventure set in a colorful anthropomorphic world. Legacy is worth reading.