Fracture by Hugo Jackson – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Fracture, by Hugo Jackson. Map.
Derby, England, UK, Inspired Quill Publishing, September 2016, trade paperback $12.99 (ix + 327 pages), Kindle $3.99.
Fracture is Book 2 of The Resonance Tetralogy. I opened my review of Legacy, Book 1, with the statement: “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.” The map is on pages viii and ix in Fracture, but otherwise it’s still good background.
Full disclosure: my review of Legacy is quoted in “Praise for Hugo Jackson”: “Legacy is very satisfying. Jackson brings a complex and colorful anthro world to life. His descriptions are full of lush detail.”
Fracture begins shortly after Legacy’s end, and while the Prologue is very dramatic, you really should read Legacy first. (Fortunately, it’s still available.) The walled multi-animal city/state/kingdom (Jackson uses the obsolete term “sovereign”) of Xayall, besieged and almost completely destroyed by the evil reptiles of Dhraka, is rebuilding. Xayall’s fox Emperor Aidan is dead, and his young daughter Faria, the on-the-run protagonist of Legacy, is in its hospital recovering. Chapter One is somber:
“Xayall itself […] still held hints of the vibrant life it harboured before its ordeal under Dhrakan claws. Teams of soldiers and civilians worked diligently to clear the streets, and many smaller buildings were already mostly healed of their wounds. The once bright sandstone walls, although still riddled with scorch and pock marks where the Dhrakan bombs had spent their wrath, were patrolled by dedicated troops eager to defend against any unwanted raids. The biggest change in the city’s visage, however, had been made to the central tower. Formerly the city’s glimmering pinnacle, the Tor’s severed column now virtually disappeared against the blanket of clouds, while the wing structures previously cradling the sky had shattered at its base when they fell, and were now solemnly being used to rebuild vital structures still suffering from damage.” (p. 4)
A serious problem is that Emperor Aidan was killed before revealing his long-range plans for Xayall’s eventual victory. The adolescent princess Faria, now “‘Empress’ (by itself an obsolete and criticised honorific)”, must create her orders for Xayall’s political and military rebuilding from her hospital bed, largely by guess.
With Faria and her loyal cyborg raccoon Tierenan hospitalized, and other supporting characters in Legacy busy offstage, Fracture features a new protagonist and cast at first. Bayer Kanjita, ocelot, and Kier, fox, are two young officers in Xayall’s hierarchy, the former guardians of Princess Faria and now her representatives from the hospital to Xayall’s government. Kier has just become a Counsellor of Xayall. The sovereign’s near destruction by Dhraka has made Xayall dependent on its allies for food and help rebuilding, mostly northern Andarn, the largest sovereign on the continent of Cadon (see the map):
“‘This is wrong,’ Bayer scowled. ‘We shouldn’t be dependent on them for help. We’ll be under their thumb soon. You can’t just sell us out to Andarn like this – they’ll never let go of the debt. Xayall needs to rebuild its strength from within.’
Kier stepped toward him, trying to keep covert. ‘I am not selling out. Our debt is a fate we and Andarn shared on the battlefield. We’re only alive because they defended us. At the very least Alaris [the representative of Andarn’s government to Xayall but hamstrung by Andarn’s feuding politics and Cadon’s continent-wide Senate] recognizes how close not just we, but all of Eeres, came to being destroyed. They’re not doing this to usurp our land or control us, they’re –’” (p. 26)
Captain Alaris Hiryu, pangolin, is the commander of the troops of Andarn assigned to help Xayall. The murder of an important Councillor of Andarn, at a time of tensions between Andarn and neighboring Tremaine, has resulted in Cadon’s Senate calling Alaris home. Bayer, who has grown tired of Xayall’s politics, offers to escort him to get out of Xayall for a few weeks. Captain Rowan Ibarruri (meerkat) of Tremaine’s army, a jovial friend of Alaris’, joins them. (The three ride reptilian mounts. “His [Bayer’s] steed, a tall, slim, dinosaur creature not unlike an ostrich, called an Anserisaur, reacted to his tension and would uneasily flick its head as they walked.” – p. 55.)
Bayer is shocked to find that Andarn’s politics are much more deadly than Xayall’s; and that Alaris, who he distrusted at first, may be one of the best foreign friends that Xayall has. When Rowan has to return to Tremaine, and Alaris looks to be in danger of being murdered, Bayer offers to continue escorting him on a mission that will take both of them out of Andarn to the occupied neighboring sovereign of Kyrryk to look for missing troops and supplies.
Fracture switches back and forth between what Bayer and Alaris find in Kyrryk, and unexpected dangers to Faria in Xayall. To give away one spoiler, there are villains who move about in the different uniforms of the sovereigns of Cadon, committing assassinations and other sabotage to cause the sovereigns to mistrust each other and destroy the continent’s Senate. The resonance power that saved Xayall from Dhaka in Legacy reappears dramatically in the last half of the novel:
“Defeated, [spoiler] turned to flee just as an arrow from [spoiler’s] bow shot through the air and pierced the back of his thigh. He collapsed to his knees with a yelp. A low boom echoed in the corridor, followed by a rush of air, and before anyone could tell what had happened, [spoiler] was holding his sword at [spoiler’s] neck, standing on the [spoiler’s] legs to prevent his escape. The [spoiler] growled fiercely.” (p. 177)
“Quickly the two went inside, moving past the heavy curtain that concealed the cave’s entrance. But far from being the cragged, tiny opening they were expecting, what met them past the threshold was more sinister than darkness.” (p. 189)
As with Legacy, Fracture (wraparound cover by Katie Hofgard) comes to a satisfactory conclusion; but without leaving any doubt that it is only Book 2 in the tetralogy. Book 3, Ruin’s Dawn, is next.
Fracture is enjoyable funny-animal melodrama. Jackson has some acknowledged unusual animals in his cast, such as Alaris the pangolin, who needs custom-made armour since pangolins are so rare. (Still, real pangolins aren’t nearly as large as the giant shown on Hofgard’s cover.) Jackson is still prone to adjectives and adverbs that imply sentience to objects and emotions: “bombs had spent their wrath”, “vital structures still suffering from damage”. He also likes really obsolete terminology. Besides calling nations sovereigns, there are “Slowly, unnoticed by the squabbling parties, he slid one of his bardiches from its ring on his belt.” (p. 31), and “He knelt beside her, his jinbaori rippling in the breeze.” (p. 149). But generally, meanings are clear enough from the context.
If you haven’t read Legacy, you’ll want to after reading Fracture; but this Book 2 does stand on its own nicely. It does come to a satisfactory ending – but wow! does it have a great grabber for Book 3!