Felicia: The Night of the Basquot, by Chas. P. A. Melville – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Felicia: The Night of the Basquot, by Chas. P. A. Melville. Illustrated by the author.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, September 2017, trade paperback, $12.00 (257 pages), Kindle $9.99.
“‘So!’ crowed Felicia happily. And then she frowned. ‘So,’’ she repeated, more uncertainly. And then, in puzzlement, ‘So.’ Her ears flicked as she turned to stare at the rising sun. ‘So, what’s a ‘Basquot’ anyway?’” (p. 86)
Felicia cla di Burrows, the vixen renegade sorceress blackballed from the Magic Council, is thirty years old this year. She first appeared as an enigmatic background character when Melville began self-publishing The Champion of Katara comic book, #1 dated August-September 1987. Now she has her first novel.
Spiteful and egocentric, all that was really clear was that Felicia had been horribly mistreated as a child. She began studying sorcery — including forbidden black magic — to gain revenge against those who had destroyed her family. But her heart was not really in being evil, and she kept using her magic to help others while postponing her vendetta against her family’s enemies. As a flawed ‘good guy’ and a colorful, charismatic character, Felicia became the most popular of Melville’s anthro animal cast when he moved to Seattle and became active in the furry community there, and he resumed his comic-book stories for Edd Vick’s MU Press in the 1990s. Felicia’s most dramatic and complex adventure was the 184-page graphic novel Felicia: Melari’s Wish (August 1994). Later in the ’90s, she starred in three lighter stand-alone stories as a sorceress-for-hire without the dark background of her vengeance goal, written by Melville and drawn by Bill Schmickle, in MU’s anthology comic-book ZU.
Melville later brought Felicia back in a series of text novelette booklets, with illustrations every few pages, published by CaféPress. These continued the lighter stories in ZU. Felicia became a professional sorceress-for-hire/detective who got involved with finding and dispelling ancient evils, or preventing their escape to wreak havoc in Katara and its neighboring animal kingdoms of Dogonia, Bruinsland (bears), Scentas (skunks), Rodentia (mice), and others. Melville wrote five of these, from Felicia and the Dreaded Book of Un (February 2004) to Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol (January 2008). One, Felicia and the Tailcutter’s Curse (June 2004), won that year’s Ursa Major Award in the Best Short Fiction category. All five were republished as a single book, The Vixen Sorceress (CreateSpace, December 2008).
Melville began producing a Felicia webcomic, Felicia, Sorceress of Katara, in December 2007, but for the last nine years there have been almost no Felicia text adventures. Now Felicia is back in a 257-page novel.
Felicia: The Night of the Basquot is her origin story, and an introduction to her world (which might be described as Tolkien lite, with funny animals). It begins when Felicia emerges in Katara from a mysterious seven-year disappearance, crackling with magic energy and ready to join the all-powerful Magi Council (a.k.a. the Brotherhood of the Candle) as its newest and youngest sorceress. Instead, she is shocked and infuriated to learn that she has been rejected.
“There was a liquidly pop, and somebody stepped through into the middle of Manwa Katdu’s private office.
Felicia swept her cloak out of the way and marched in, looking furiously about before centering her sights upon the wizard. ‘You!’ she snapped, angrily advancing upon him. She pointed at him, her fist still grasping an official letter. ‘Are you Manwa Katdu? I want to speak to you!’
Manwa [a cat wizard] lowered the still-sparking mace, but kept a tight grip upon it. ‘Who are you?’ he demanded indignantly. ‘How dare you just barge in to my sanctuary this way? Do you have any sense of proper decorum?’ More to the point, he wondered, how did you break through a series of protective spells set in place by a committee of the most powerful Magi?
‘Blow it out of your peaked hat,’ snapped the vixen shaking the letter at him. ‘I want to know what this means!’
Felicia resumed glaring at him and continued her harangue. ‘How can you possibly dismiss my application so casually? Don’t meet your minimum standards? Why, you’ve no idea what I’m capable of!’
‘That is precisely the point,’ Manwa told her. ‘We don’t know.’ He studied her more carefully. ‘You are Felicia, correct? The old Sorceress’ apprentice? Then you know as well as anyone should how careful the Council is in accepting applicants to its order, even from among its own brotherhood. […]” (pgs. 36-37)
Felicia’s determination to keep how she learned her magic a secret (part of her planned revenge against the powerful wolf nobleman who murdered her family when she was a child) keeps the suspicious Council from accepting her. This world has two gods, or a god and a demon, the good Aln and the evil Murk; and the Magi Council will not admit anyone to its ranks until they are certain that the applicant is not an agent of the Murk. Felicia is obviously powerful enough, but she will not revel her training or the source of her magic.
Before the matter of her rejection by the Council can be resolved, this world undergoes a major attack by the minions of the Murk. The wizards and sorceresses of the Council rush to oppose it, while Felicia is sidetracked by the enemy who killed her family.
“It’s too soon, a voice in the back of her mind warned. You’re not ready yet! ‘I should have known,’ she growled to herself. ‘From the very beginning, I should have known. When I first saw the tray! Only he would have had access to it and all of the other property stolen from my parents!’ She pulled on the reins, forcing the horse to take a fork that led along a deep stream. Startled night creatures scattered at her approach, chittering as they fled into the high grass. You’re not ready yet! her inner voice reminded her firmly. It’s too soon! This isn’t according to the plan! First, you get established and make a name for yourself! Remember? Then, you slowly, slowly, acquire friends among the powerful, until you have enough to worry him. When it’s time, you move your friends against him. But you need time!
‘I don’t have time!’ she snarled aloud, and snapped the reins again to urge the horse faster. ‘He’s up to something now, and he’s using my parents’ wealth to do it! By Aln! I’ll make him suffer for this!’” (pgs. 126-127)
Felicia: The Night of the Basquot (cover by the author) is a fast-paced mixture of drama and humor, well-blended although occasionally descending into silliness, as when Felicia wins the dubious support of a band of miniature dog warriors…
“‘We’re the Toy Pooch Patrol! We’re the fighters that everyone forgets, but who forget no one. We’re the ones who watch over the overlooked, and guard against the injustices done to the little folk.’” (p. 155)
…or with names like Bill Sneakyshoes. On the whole, though, if you like Disney-fairy-tale-type desperate battles of funny-animal knights against monsters, good versus evil wizards and sorceresses, noble sacrifices and tragic deaths, you will enjoy Felicia: The Night of the Basquot. Melville presents a broader picture of his animal world, and the mood is generally more serious than in his novelettes like Felicia and the Cult of the Rubber Nose with its mime assassins.
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