The Earth Tigers, by Frances Pauli – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Earth Tigers, by Frances Pauli
Moses Lake, WA, Gastropod Press, February 2017, trade paperback $7.99 (165 pages), Kindle $0.99.
The Earth Tigers is Star Spiders, Volume One. Pauli considers it to be s-f, not furry, but it has talking spiders in it. Volume Two, tentatively titled Sky Fires, will be published in 2018.
The Earth Tigers is dedicated:
For all the eight-legged beauties, big and small.
Without them, we’d live in a much less friendly
Unfortunately for reviewing, The Earth Tigers begins in the midst of deliberate confusion and only gradually reveals what is going on. So any traditional plot synopsis would be full of spoilers.
It starts with a spider, Horatch, who is looking for a human to become a “candidate”. He (there is a reason for him to be a male rather than a female spider) choses Milyi, a young girl alone in a forest.
“‘Nicely done.’ A male voice spoke from the trees.
Milyi froze and searched her surroundings. She could see no one. ‘Who said that?’
‘You dance beautifully.’ His calm voice held traces of an echo and had no visible source.
‘Where are you?’ Milyi turned a small circle, watching the vines.
‘To your right,’ he said. ‘The large trunk, and just above your head.’
She turned again, all the way around, and still saw no one. One of the trees was distinctly larger than the others, and Milyi stalked toward it on tiptoe. The bark had thick, deep ruts torn loose in places and covered in sparse moss. The fan branches swooped overhead, casting shadows across the trunk. She circled it, and found no one hiding.
Where are you?’
‘I’m afraid to show you.’
‘I have many reasons, most of them older than us both.’” (pgs. 18-19)
Horatch finally does show himself.
“Spider. Her mind whispered it, but this thing was too large to match the thought. A round, soup-bowl sized abdomen followed the long legs, the starburst body. In total, the creature was easily as long as her forearm. Milyi counted the legs as it descended. She watched eight toes test the way, clutch and release the bark one after the other. Giant spider.” (p. 20)
Milyi has a greater reason than most to fear a talking, giant spider, but that’s one of the mysteries that is revealed later. Her talking to a spider instead of immediately killing it is enough to get her sentenced to death.
“Why did they despise spiders? No one had ever explained it. If they remembered the source of their enmity, no one ever spoke it out loud. If they had a good reason, no one bothered to pass it along. But they did hate them. She understood that fully for the first time when they’d tied her feet together. She’d betrayed that hate, had lifted herself above it, and now she had no place among them.
They probably had to kill her.” (p. 41)
Horatch rescues Milyi, with the help of wild pigs that his people fellow spiders, the T’rant, have (domesticated? allied with?) But he is running out of time, and leading her to the T’rant city is more dangerous than he expects:
“The tree trunk thrummed and jerked his mind fully awake. An impact. He checked the girl below and found her sleeping, still as a stone. If she hadn’t moved… The tree shook again, harder this time. Horatch felt the vibrations like a wave from the ground, up through his toes, and onward toward the fronds above.
Something big moving, something very big.” (p. 67)
Other important characters are Saku, a human teen; Niatha, the leader of the T’rant; and Angel, a major enemy.
The Earth Tigers (cover by the author) features human adolescents, and it’s impossible to avoid thinking of Horatch as a teenage spider, making this a good Young Adult title. The novel comes to a definite conclusion, but leaves the characters awaiting what will come next. There are enough furry characters (but no tigers, or any other mammals!) to please furry readers.