Legacy: Dawn, by Rukis – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Legacy: Dawn, by Rukis. Illustrated by the author.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, June 2016, hardcover $29.95 (383 pages), trade paperback $19.95.
This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region.
Legacy: Dawn is a standalone novel by Rukis, set in her world of Red Lantern (Sofawolf Press, March 2012) and Heretic (FurPlanet Productions, January 2013). Like the others, it takes place in a brutal semi-Renaissance anthropomorphic world.
Legacy: Dawn is narrated by Kadar, a low-caste jackal in a rigid stratified society ruled by a hyena aristocracy:
“I was born in a small village near the Hyronses river, to a family of laborers working in the brick kilns. My family, as many generations back as the walls of my home and the scrawlings of previous dead relatives could trace back, have always been laborers on the clay flats, working the brick kilns. We have little choice. There is no elevation from the labor caste. If you are born a laborer, and you live long enough to have children of your own, they too will be laborers. That’s simply how it is. How it has always been. How it will always be.
At least, that’s what I was raised to believe.” (p. 7)
Kadar only describes his childhood for the first four pages. After that he is an adult indentured servant, which is not practically different than a slave:
“He [Kadar’s guard] doesn’t hesitate to bring that up. ‘Your contract requires that you work,’ the hyena sniffs, ‘you can’t very well do that if you’re on the run. We’re legally obliged by our employers to keep you sedate and dutifully paying off your debt. By any means. Any injuries you sustain during an escape attempt are your cross to bear during the workday. The harvest doesn’t stop just because you went and got yourself damaged.’” (pgs. 11-12)
Kadar’s society is a multispecies one. With him in the lowest-caste indentured servants’ quarters – well-guarded, so it’s really a prison – are lions, weasels, warthogs, tigers, squirrels, cheetahs, meerkats, rats, ferrets, dholes and painted dogs — and a hyena. The hyenas are the top caste, so it’s very unusual to see one among the indentured servants.
The meeting and evolving relationship between Kadar the jackal and Ahsin the hyena; plus Lochan the aardwolf guard, Raja the cheetah (another indentured servant), and a few others is the story of Legacy: Dawn. Intermixed within this are many brief snippets of this world’s culture and history. For example, Kadar’s nation in this world is Mataa:
“In Mataa most canines were in unfortunate circumstances, not quite at the bottom since we could be fierce and hardy, but certainly very few were ever afforded the chances that a hyena, or even a lion, might have. Even the tigers fair better on the whole. Of course, they were enormous and tended toward isolated families, so really it was more a case of people not wanting to bother them. I’d never been really close with a tiger. Jackals and tigers rarely mixed.” (p. 77)
Mataa’s “indentured servants” used to be slaves until Mataa lost a war and the victor required that all slaves be freed. Mataa just instituted indentured servitude and went on with the practice. It’s a minor detail, but it helps to make the Red Lantern world a rich and varied one.
A very important detail is the shifting relationship between Kadar and Ahsin. They’re both indentured servants, the lowest of the low, but Kadar is only a jackal while Ahsin is a hyena. Indentured servant or not, that counts for something. At the same time, Kadar has a naturally dominant personality while Ahsin is submissive:
“‘I can’t be like Raja. Or you,’ he [Ahsin] says, knitting his hands in front of him, nervously. ‘I’m just not like that.’
‘Like what?’ I prickle.
‘There are those who command, and those who listen,’ he says in words that don’t sound like they were ever his own. ‘I am one who listens. I am meant to be kept, not a keeper.’
‘No one is meant to be kept,’ I say, pushing the words out with all the emphasis I can. His eyes widen somewhat at my change in tone, but he doesn’t look scared. Instead he’s staring at me even more intensely now, enrapt. His paws are still wringing at one another near his waist, tail tucked, but at least now I have his full attention. He waits expectantly for me to continue.” (pgs. 52-53)
The characters’ species traits can be important:
“‘It’s what’s right,’ the older hyena says again, and I hear Ahsan’s paws on the cobbled walkway, stepping backwards. I know the sound of his footsteps by now. That scent of fear is strong in the air, and the mix of smells I’m getting off the older hyena are disturbing. He has bad teeth, I can tell that much right away. Also, he drank recently, and there’s the definite reek of arousal mixed in there. We’re in a very isolated area of the yard, but still, surely he wouldn’t attempt anything in public like this?” (p. 92)
“I twist my ears as we move, mostly hearing the horses in the stalls beyond, stirring in their sleep or moving about, still awake. I can hear what are definitely paws moving about in the hay, but judging by the lightness of their footsteps it’s probably a servant, some kind of smaller species, tending to the animals.” (p. 231)
Legacy: Dawn is about Kadar’s and Ahsin’s struggle for the freedom to be together, in a society where both are treated as property that can be casually separated. It is also about Kadar’s confused instinct to be a dominant personality in a society where he is of low caste, and those of higher caste do not hesitate to punish those below them who get “uppity”.
Legacy: Dawn is an adventure novel with explicit violence and adult eroticism throughout it, from sadistic beatings to consensual lovemaking to savage rape:
“He brings the blade up just underneath her chin in a snapping motion, sinking the whole of it to the hilt up through her throat. The blade is barely half a foot long and thin, but her throat isn’t armored, and all that escapes her mouth in the seconds following is a surprised gurgle.
The male guard hasn’t even seen it yet. He’s about to though, and I know I have to do something. [spoiler] released the hilt of the dagger, leaving it in her, and he’s going for his sword, but all that guard has to do is send up a warning cry and we’ve blown it right out of the gate.” (p. 228)
The mature content advisory is deserved. There are seven interior paintings by Rukis, in black-&-white in this book but in full color on FurAffinity.
Legacy: Dawn should not be missed, if you have a strong stomach. Or if you want to know what 17th– and 18th-century slavery was like. Warning: Be prepared for a major surprise in the last chapter!