The Long Road Home, by Rukis – Book Review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Long Road Home, by Rukis. Illustrated by the author.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2015, hardcover $29.95 (403 pages), trade paperback $19.95, electronic edition $12.95.
This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region (publisher’s advisory.)
This is the final volume of the trilogy begun in Off the Beaten Path and continued in Lost On Dark Trails. Those were first published as trade paperbacks; now all three are available as $29.95 hardcovers.
The trilogy follows Shivah, the bobcat narrator, a Carvecian native “squaw” in an anthropomorphic world roughly similar to late 18th-century North America (the Amurescan colonies in Carvecia fought a war for their independence and formed the United Carvecian Nations a little over a generation earlier); and her two companions, Ransom, a coyote trapper, and Puck (Puquanah), a blind silver fox shaman. Shivah is on a quest for vengeance against Methoa’nuk (also a bobcat), Shivah’s ex-husband, a cruel native warrior who has joined a band of raiders that have wiped out Shivah’s tribe and now threaten the new UCN peoples along the Eastern Seaboard. Lost On Dark Trails went in a major new direction from Off the Beaten Path, so it should be no surprise that The Long Way Home does the same.
In this conclusion to the trilogy, Shivah’s quest changes from vengeance against her personal enemies and those of her native peoples to finding a cure for the Fever that has been killing natives and UCN peoples alike. Ransom, Puck, and Magpie the rat take her deeper into the lands of the strange foreigners from overseas:
“I was beginning to see different sorts of people as well, the closer we got to the enormous settlement. Peoples I’d never before heard of, or even imagined. More and more varieties of Otherwolves, felines with brightly-colored fur and wild markings, spots and stripes and patchworks of different colors, and some peoples I couldn’t even begin to identify.
By the time we reached the city itself, I’d been seeing it in the distance for nearly half the day. The hilly terrain surrounding this ‘Arbordale’ sloped down onto the flatlands that lead towards the ocean, so we could see the immense, sprawling settlement after we’d crested the last of the rolling mountains along our trek. In fact, it was all I could see for miles.” (pgs. 13-14)
Rukis’ talent for rich description is evident:
“When Ransom made his way towards her, the [polar] bear looked up, as did the black canine she was talking to. The bear was a very large woman, built like most bears, dense and strong, but definitely female. She was wearing a richly-colored blue tunic with gold trim, and a long, cream-colored wrap skirt beneath. She looked very regal, very impressive. It wasn’t often I saw a woman who commanded respect. It was refreshing.
‘I know you, don’t I?’ the bear said with half a smile, pointing a finger at Ransom. ‘I never forget a scar.’” (p, 19)
Shivah’s party is headed away from the lands that she has always known, to the Dark Continent to find a cure for the deadly Fever. Shivah is also still pursuing the fleeing last target of her vengeance. But the Dark Continent has become so dangerous that the Amurescan king is evacuating its colonies there. The only ships that the four can find that are going there are a tiny fleet of three privateers, more like pirates; completely untrustworthy.
I hesitate to reveal any more for fear of giving away spoilers, but there are wonders here. Before Shivah even gets to the Dark Continent, there is action at sea:
“And then I saw something bizarre. Something I hadn’t expected, considering we were two weeks away from land, as far as I knew.
‘Are you certain we’re two weeks from landfall?’ I asked Grayson [the wolf captain] curiously.
‘Ten days maybe, with these winds,’ the wolf mused. ‘Why?’
I shook my head, still keeping my gaze on the bizarre specks I’d noticed. I was fairly certain now… I could see wings. ‘It’s not land,’ I said, ‘it’s birds.’
‘What?!’ the wolf suddenly snapped, and grabbed the spyglass out of my hands. He looked through it for a few moments, searching for what I’d seen, and then he froze. I watched his expression shift from concern to outright alarm.
‘What are they? What are they carrying?’ I asked, as we dropped down onto the top platform, and the wolf stopped there, grabbing at the edge of it and screaming down at one of the rats far beneath us, ‘Bring the sails in, damnit! Now!’
I made it to his side at that, and the wolf pulled out his pistols, one by one, checking them. ‘Drakes,’ he growled, ‘carrying fire bombs. Baskets of burning pitch and tar, and whatever else they feel like loading those blasted things with. They sunk my fourth boat a few years back. The Leverage.’ He snarled, shoving the last of the pistols into his bandolier. ‘We have to take them down before they get close.’” (pgs. 99-101)
The Long Road Home is full of unexpected drama, new characters, the end of Shivah’s long quest, and over a half-dozen illustrations by Rukis. There are a few brief scenes of adult intimate sexuality, both hetero and homo, which is the reason for FurPlanet’s advisory, but they are tastefully and nonerotically presented. The trilogy is really one long novel in three parts, so if you are not familiar with it yet, you should start with Off the Beaten Path. If you have read it and Lost On Dark Trails, you don’t need me to tell you to get this climactic volume.