Light: A Tale of the Magical Creatures of Zudukii, by T. S. McNally – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
“Magical creatures” are the operative words here. I usually divide anthropomorphic fiction into either furry or funny-animal fiction, depending upon whether the anthro animals show some semblance of reality as to species, or whether they are “animal-headed humans”. In Light, though, the inhabitants of Zudukii are totally, blatantly fantastic. It is rare when two characters, say a brother and sister, are the same species, and all are basically humans. A bear has an otter sister, who has a kangaroo boyfriend.
Actually, he’s not exactly a kangaroo. While Garoo is usually called a kangaroo, he is more accurately described (disparagingly) as a kangabuck, a kangaroo with antlers; the son of a stag father and a kangaroo mother. See the cover by Selkie. But most characters do not display a mixed heritage. They are either one animal or the other.
Does Garoo hop or walk? The reader can’t tell. Does he have other non-kangaroo attributes? Page 29 says, “The crowd had grown to such a size that the kangaroo wrapped his tail around one of the posts as to keep himself from accidently falling into the water.” Kangaroo tails are not that prehensile.
Do the animals, including anthro birds, wear clothes or not? This is vague until page 31, when “Enveloped in a long green dress, a grey bushy form of a squirrel female […]” — although it’s still unclear as to whether all of the animals wear clothes or only some of them.
Light’s plot makes it a Young Adult novel. The adolescents of Emergant, a village in Land Province, are due to all board the Arcane, a religious/social river ship and sail to Omnigic village, the religious capital, where each will learn what magic Power he or she will receive – or none at all. Garoo, the son of Emergant’s Elder, the proudly antlered stag Bomeran, is widely expected to become his father’s successor. But Garoo stubbornly refuses to learn to fight, a necessary duty to defend the village – if it is not a contradiction, he might be called militantly pacifistic. Kareen, his tomboyish otter girlfriend, determines that if he won’t fight for himself, she will fight for him; even if this may make her more favored than him for the heir apparent. But Fangstro, the bullying wolf teenage son of Emergant’s previous Elder, plots to discredit both Garoo and Kareen to become the new favorite; a scheme that becomes more urgent on the Night of Transitions when it looks like Bomeran will be promoted to the Sage of the whole Land Province and leave for Floreinna, the Province’s capital; creating an immediate vacancy for a new Elder in Emergant. For most of the novel, it looks like Fangstro’s plans to make them both absent from the ceremony where the adolescents receive their magic powers will work.
The most interesting aspect of Garoo’s world is its slowly revealed history and social structure. The world has been undergoing a time of peace after the Tri-Societal War of a generation ago, but that may not last. Each of the four Provinces is devoted to one of the four elements – Land, Water, Fire, and Air. A Sage is responsible for a whole Province; an Elder for only one village within it. Describing more details would give away too many spoilers.
Light is more or less worth reading, but this is one of those books where you have to grit your teeth and plow through leaden prose and grammatical errors on almost every page. There are no spelling errors, but was the novel proofread otherwise? There are plenty of obvious missing and double words, like “‘Brudder! You have my toffee?’ his [Garoo’s] young brother [a fawn] inquired as he leaning forward.” (p. 24), or “You were always were pretty bright.” (p. 31). Fangstro is constantly called a wolf; a canine. Wolves are canids, but are they canines? I can’t read the word “canine” without thinking of dogs. The story constantly shifts between the past and present tense:
“Garoo didn’t know how to respond to that as he leaned his ears back, a bit sheepish at how blunt his friend was about the relationship between him and the otter. There was another laugh heard which caused both of them to be startled. They soon identified the creature who laughed as Bomeran, who stood next to a flustered Kareen.
‘Honestly that was not my intent, but I suppose it is a possibility.” the deer gives a smile which only causes further embarrassment for Kareen and Garoo.
After that statement there was a moment of awkward silence, one which the buck graciously broke as he looked to his [sic]. ‘I need a moment with you, could you please follow me?’ he asks before proceeding into the nearby shed.” (pgs. 136-137)
Light ends on a dramatic cliffhanger, with a “To Continue in Wind.”
T. S. McNally is a frequent contributor to Flayrah under the name Sonious, depicted as a kangaroo. If all his fursonas are put together, you get Tantroo Sonious McNally; but that’s still only a fursona. But it’s an active one. He has written short stories for furry anthologies, and this is his first novel.