The Relics of Thiala, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

The Relics of Thiala, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, February 2017, trade paperback $15.99 (190 [+ 10] pages), Kindle $4.99.

Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus, two retirees “in the very heart of Germany” according to their website “The Adventure of Romance”, have already written five other books, four in English and one in German. The two Smilodon Pride novels, Softpaw and Sunchaser, feature werecats, werewolves, and vampires, although they all spend most of the time passing as humans.

Now with the Packmasters space opera series, more obvious furries are featured in an unusual premise.

“Twenty years ago, the evil Packmasters used their genetically engineered bestiae in an attempt to seize control of the galaxy. The Core Worlders wiped them out, scorched their planets and kept the few surviving bestiae as trophies.” (blurb)

Really? The protagonists of The Relics of Thiala are Cat, Ferret, Bear, and Wolf, four rare bestiae — anthropomorphic animals — who had been kept as pampered pets or arena gladiators by the human elite. They are “liberated” by a human girl, Ana, to form a new pack. Ana has become aware that the reality she sees does not match “what everyone knows” about the Packmaster-Core Worlds war. The victors write the history books, and from what Ana can see, the Core World masses (not the rulers) might have been better off if the Packmasters had won. Ana – a mysterious adopted orphan who may be a Packlander child – runs away to steal three bestiae pets and one savage arena warrior to form a new pack, and go in search of what really happened to the Packmasters – and what the Packmasters really were (and Ana is).

“Now their misfit pack must face down the darkness at the heart of Packmaster society before it can poison their bond. The truth will either destroy them or grant them the power to shape their own destiny.” (blurb)

The Relics of Thiala is narrated by Cat, who gives it a very furry perspective.

“I had been the pampered pet of of a rich Core senator as long as I could think back. I was a prized possession, cared for in every possible way. There were servants who brushed my fur, servants who fed me and servants who walked me in the gardens so I didn’t turn from chubby to fat. Everything was arranged so I was exactly what my owner expected from a perfectly tame calico tomcat. My markings were rather irregular, large patches of brown and orange stripes on a white coat of fur, the only symmetric part was my tail with its beautiful dark brown and golden rings. But he thought that made me special. He didn’t keep me to display me in competitions, after all. I was his ultimate luxury item – utterly useless and terribly expensive.” (p. 32)

“Ferret stopped in front of one of the heavy steel doors lining the tunnel. Like the rest of us, he was wrapped in a voluminous cloak, concealing that he was a bestia, too. Still he had drawn some puzzled frowns, being mistaken for a human child due to his size. But nobody bothered to intervene – this was Darkside, after all. Nobody bothered, ever. Ferret fiddled with the lock only briefly before he stepped aside and allowed Bear to help him pull the door open.” (p. 11)

“After years of searching, we weren’t much closer to hard facts about the Packmasters, their beastiae and the war than we had been when we had started. Every avenue of research we had tried had turned out to be a dead end.” (p. 39)

“Furred as we were, none of us really needed the robes, but Ana insisted the same way she insisted we had proper clothes. ‘You are not animals. You are just as much entitled to have clothes to protect yourselves and make yourselves pretty as anyone else,’ she had said when she had bought me my first set of clothing. At first, it had felt strange to wear something over my fur, but it did make it much easier to blend in. And I liked being pretty.” (p. 44)

“Since my cooking skills were not suited for anything complicated, I opted for safe and simple. Couldn’t go wrong with grilled steaks when there were four people at the table who had been genetically engineered from carnivorous animal species.” (p. 49)

Cat is the first bestia in Ana’s pack. After years of sneaking about the Core Worlds, living in the shadows while adding Ferret, Bear, and Wolf, the pack is ready to begin its hunt. They steal a crime lord’s gaudy space yacht (whore-house scarlet) – small and automated so the five of them can fly it – and take off for Thiala. “Finally out here on the Fringe, we had uncovered the location of one of the old Packmaster worlds where they had conducted their research and created their bestiae. It’s [sic.] existence had been erased from all official records. There was a good chance we would find nothing but a scorched wasteland, but we hoped that there was a reason, that planet was kept secret. Maybe we would find traces of the Packmasters from before the war, or even records or hints that some had survived somewhere.” (p. 39)

I could pick nits with the story. (1) Walking about in public draped under a voluminous cloak, with a hood completely hiding your face, to go unnoticed may have a respectable ancestry – see the Mafia chieftan Luigi Vampa in The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas – but just try it in real life and see how “unnoticed” you really are. (And not just one, but a group of cloaked figures.) (2) To quote Wikipedia, “calicoes are nearly always female”.

But this is space opera, not hard science s-f. This review covers the first 50 pages of the 190-page novel (cover by Darbaras, a.k.a. Dávid László Tóth). What will Cat, Ferret, Bear, Wolf, and Ana find on Thiala and the sleazy Vandal space station? Since this is space opera, expect mucho dramatic action and weapons fire.

The Relics of Thiala comes to a satisfactory conclusion, but this series is just starting. Packmasters #2, Raid on Sullin, is due in autumn 2017.

– Fred Patten