Tailless, by Erin Quinn – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Tailless, by Erin Quinn
Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley Books, May 2016, trade paperback $20.00 (284 [+ 1] pages).
Dolores, a young tailless vixen, is a waitress at Max’s lower-class diner. When she is molested by a drunken rat customer, Max (a fatherly bear) moves in to protect her; but she can take care of herself.
“Dolores clenched her serving tray to her side and took a step forward. Her heals clacked against the wooden floor. The diner became quite. ‘I wasn’t done with ya, sweetie. How about bring that bare bottom back over here?’ She toyed with the idea of clawing his face, but her father’s words echoed between her ears: ‘Young ladies do not raise their claws.’” (p.1)
The problem is that they are in the city of ‘Lo, Lyndon, and Lyndon lost the Common War with Ulick a year ago. King Scottsburg (lion) is furious and is executing most of his old advisors, their families, and anyone else he doesn’t like as traitors. Dolores and Max cannot afford to do anything that will bring themselves to the attention of his Royal Guard. Dolores is something of a mystery woman:
“Ever since they met Max had been curious about her. She arrived six months ago with little more than the clothes on her back. The easy option would have been to turn away a girl who had no work history, no credits to buy a meal, and a vague explanation for why she was in the city. But she was eager to help and wanted very little in return. Max couldn’t say no.” (p. 3)
It’s not giving away much of a spoiler to reveal that Dolores is really Belladonna Sinclair, daughter of a minister personally executed by King Scottsdale. While the Sinclair family was in favor before the war, Dolores/Belladonna was in a close friendship with young Tym Timmons (gray and black tabby cat). Since the war, Tym is the new Minister of the Interior, in charge of finding and executing the king’s enemies. He dares to plead for Belladonna’s pardon since she was innocent of her father’s treason, but King Scottsdale is adamant that she be publicly killed. The missing Belladonna/Dolores’ hiding is helped by the fact that nobody knows that she lost her tail in the war (“‘I just got caught up in a scuffle. It wasn’t too bad. Honestly, I’m sure whoever swung the sword wasn’t aiming for my tail.’” – p. 29), but it does make her stand out. She is now in hiding in ‘Lo, helped by her taillessness and the fatherly Max, and by James Euclid (skunk), the handsome son of her former (slain) university professor.
Tailless (cover by Robbye “Quel” Nicholson) is a combination of a soap opera and an adventure novel, with three story lines. One features Dolores’ new life as a waitress, with new friends like Max, Gretchen Went (brown squirrel), and James Euclid. Now that she is old enough to be interested in romance, she wonders if her friendship with Tym was more than just friendship, or if she is developing a romance with James – or with Gretchen. A second is with Prowl Milton (middle-aged wolf), a former minister now in hiding in the port city of Dret to escape King Scottsdale’s soldiers, and trying to get out of Dret before his disguise as humble Willow Grey is uncovered. The third is with Tym Timmons, leading the manhunt for Milton and Belladonna, to execute the wolf but hoping to spare his old friend.
My summary of Tailless is “eh”. It’s a good story, with Quinn cleverly holding back several secrets to be revealed one at a time. (Minor spoiler: lizards enter the story on p. 120.) But the basic setup makes it never convincing. The characters are each random fuzzy mammals (raccoons, ocelots, rabbits, cheetahs, deer, tigers, horses, etc.) who could just as easily be humans. A vixen trying to decide whether she loves a housecat, a skunk, or a squirrel? A cute child is a hybrid: “Her features could not be ignored, the fox like tail, the cat whiskers, the red and grey colors melding fur coats of diverse species parents.” (p. 21), making you wonder why all the animal-peoples of this world of Azul are not homogenized by now.
Tailless is horribly proofread, or more likely not proofread at all. On the first page alone, in addition to “heals” (heels) and “quite” (quiet), there are “Dolores folded her ears back and shook her head, she yearned […]”, “[…] buried his face his in paws.”; and “The rat’s eyes were in faraway state […]” Other errors include “The idea of the rabid praying on her” (“rabble” and “preying”), “When her tailed was grabbed”, and “what are people are scared of?” Never mind the literary merit or lack of same; the typographical and spelling errors make this a “grit your teeth and plow ahead” book.
Why do the kings have such names as King Scottsdale and King Grayson? Scottsdale’s full name is given more than once; King Richard Scottsdale the Third. This is done too often to be an error. Everyone should know that kings and queens are known by their personal names, not their dynastic names. Is this deliberate to make the furry world of Azul more exotic? It just looks weird.
Read Tailless if you’re really desperate for furry fiction.