The Flower’s Fang Series, by Madison Keller – Book Reviews by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Flower’s Fang series.
This is a colorful mixture of furry and high fantasy.
Snow Flower: Arara’s Tale, by Madison Keller.
Portland, OR, Hundeliebe Publishing, May 2016, trade paperback, $5.99 (72 pages), Kindle $0.99.
Flower’s Fang, by Madison Keller.
Portland, OR, Hundeliebe Publishing, August 2014, trade paperback, $14.99 (354 pages), Kindle $0.99.
Flower’s Curse, by Madison Keller.
Portland, OR, Hundeliebe Publishing, June 2016, trade paperback, $13.99 (238 pages), Kindle $4.99.
These three books are bibliographically complex. Flower’s Fang and Flower’s Curse are advertised as a two-volume set. The first edition of Snow Flower was published on December 21, 2014. The second edition, with proofreading errors corrected and still with Keith Draws’ cover, was published on May 16, 2016. It was reprinted with Teagan Gavet’s cover, retypeset more compactly from 126 pages to 72 pages, with the new subtitle “Prequel Novella to Flower’s Fang” added, and the city of publication changed from Seattle, WA (CreateSpace’s office) to Portland, OR (Keller’s home), on April 20, 2017. If you order it today, you’ll probably get it with Teagan’s wraparound cover.
Flower’s Fang has three listed editions, all dated August 2014. The typography of the title lettering changes, but all have the same illustration by Johnny Atomic. The third edition has two maps added.
Flower’s Curse has two editions listed, both dated June 2016. The second edition has a new cover by Idess Sherwood (the cover of the first edition is by Keith Draws), and includes the maps.
The main protagonist of all three books is Arara, a young Jegera (anthropomorphic wolf) in a fantasy world dominated by a “Kin-Jegera Empire”. The Kin are humanoid and human-sized flower fairies or elves, who wear ornate silken robes (see the cover of Flower’s Fang) and uniforms:
“‘How are you feeling?’ A melodious Kin voice asked her. The Kin hovered over Arara, her yellow petal hair framing her green face like a sun halo. The scent of the Kin’s petals reminded Arara of a sweet flower, but it was strong to the point of being overpowering.” (SF, p. 23)
The Empire is satisfactory to both, but the Kin are definitely the aristocracy and the Jegera are the peasants. The Jegera wear some clothes and can walk two-legged, but they usually run on all fours. The Kin ride the Jegera like horses.
“‘You can’t go treating her differently, Athura.’ Eraka grinned and looked at Arara. ‘That settles it. Go put on your shorts and vest. There is still snow up in the foothills, and we don’t want you getting cold.’
Arara barked in delight and scampered off to get dressed.” (SF, pgs. 3-4)
Snow Flower is a novella of Arara’s puppyhood.
“‘Dad, tell mom I can go [hunting] with you.’ Arara wagged her tail. She’d never been hunting before, while school was known and dreaded.
True, for the first couple of days Arara had been excited and eager to learn. But that was before she’d met Kerka. The first day he’d left her alone, although she’d known from his thoughts that he had stared at her most of the day wondering what was wrong with her. Arara hadn’t been able to say anything to him about it though, because her parents had made her promise to keep her telepathy a secret. She’d been able to hear others’ thoughts since she was born, but her parents told her other Jegera couldn’t; they could only hear thoughts sent by gefir.” (SF, p. 2)
Arara and her parents Eraka and Athura are the omegas of their Jegera pack. Gefir is talking by thoughts. Arara is different from the other Jegera in more than being able to hear thoughts.
“‘I guess I like Gror,’ Arara conceded. ‘But Kerka is mean to me. He said my white fur is ugly and that my tail is broken.’
‘He’s just never seen white fur before, Snow Flower,’ Eraka prodded. ‘And your curly tail is perfectly natural.’”
‘She might be the same age as when you first went hunting, but she’s not even half as big as the other puppies.’ Athura squeezed tighter until Arara yelped and struggled.” (SF, p. 3)
Snow Flower (Teagan Gavet’s wraparound cover shows Arara confronting Kerka) is about how Arara plans to use her secret power of hearing thoughts to get revenge on Kerka, the class bully; and what happens. Keller weaves real lupine alpha-omega social relationships into this. Arara’s pack lives in Last Home, the farthest north community of the Empire where the Kin do not usually come, so the Kin only have a very brief role in this story.
Flower’s Fang, a full novel, is set many years later. Arara and her classmates are about to graduate from juveniles to adults. She is still the omega of her school, blamed for everything that goes wrong. She is looking forward to leaving them all and leaving home, to go alone to Sebaine City, the capital of the Empire.
Prince Sels, the other protagonist of the series, appears. He is a young Kin (shown on Johnny Atomic’s cover), and the Kin are described at length. Of importance is that each Kin aristocrat has a personal Jegera guard; a combination of a military bodyguard and a talking mount.
Prince Sels is the equivalent of Arara among his people. He is young and insecure. Nobody listens to him despite his rank, except Jeron, his childhood Jegera guard. He is pushed around by his servants, and his Kin relatives and “friends”, led by his cousin Lady Sesay, offer him advice and guidance that works out to what they want to do. When he does muster enough willpower to give orders that they don’t like, they just ignore him and issue their own orders in his name.
“Sesay’s pink petal-hair seemed to glow against the dark wood of the carriage. Her tapered, green Kin ears were barely visible through the thick mass of petals framing her heart shaped face. Sesay flashed a tight smile at him, her blue eyes sparkling under her leafy eyelashes, and primly folded her hands in her lap. Sels suppressed a wince, knowing that smile meant a lecture was coming. Even after a full moon-cycle of constant travel, Sesay’s clothes were immaculate. His own robes looked worse for wear, despite Jeron’s diligent care.
Where Sesay had a mass of petals flowing down around her face and over her shoulders, Sels had an elegant growth of vines tipped with dark purple flowers. The wind had left Sels [sic.] vines in a messy tangle, and Sels made a mental note to have Jeron braid them tomorrow morning before the hunt.” (FF, p. 8)
Prince Sels and his entourage are required by custom to travel to Last Home to witness and congratulate the Jerlings (Arara’s class) on their graduation. The ceremony includes a “first adult” hunt by the adolescent wolves of a dangerously deadly beast. Part of the custom includes Sels’ own rite of passage; he is expected to select one of the Jerlings and sedyu-bond with him or her to replace Jeron and be his adult Jegera guard-mount for the rest of his life. Sels senses Arara’s similarity among the Jerlings to his own omega-position, and determines to stop being pushed around and pick her to sedyu-bond with. However, the other Kin just ignore him as usual and announce that he has picked two other Jerlings (that are closer to their own interests) to be his sedyu-bond candidates. Sels is still too immature and insecure to protest aloud.
The rest of Flower Fang is Sels’ and Arara’s secret campaign (with Jeron’s help) in Sebaine City, the Empire’s capital and seat of the Kins’ royal court, to make Arara his sedyu-bonded guardian. It could be considered a variant on Romeo and Juliet with Juliet at first believing that Romeo is only being nice to her to ridicule her.
“Wheezing, Arara stumbled over to her overstuffed pack and grabbed a strap.
Sels, who’d been watching the whole exchange with a puzzled expression, arched one eyebrow. ‘You can lift that?’
‘Well enough,’ she said, hoisting it up onto her back and immediately toppling over backwards. Arara sprawled on her back on top of the pack, her legs kicking at the air.
High pitched giggles filled the air for a moment before something muffled them. She lifted her head to see Sels laughing with the blanket pressed over his mouth. Jeron stood next to him, his face buried in his paws and his shoulders quaking.
Before Arara could wriggle out of the straps, Eraka grabbed the bag with one arm, lifting it and Arara off the ground. She slid free, landing on the grass with a thump, tail between her legs.” (FF, pgs. 95-96)
(Since the whole Flower’s Fang series is not illustrated, it is sometimes hard to tell when a wolf is standing on two or four feet.)
There are deadly royal politics, assassins, “dark plots”, and a rebellion before the more-or-less happy ending.
Flower’s Curse begins with Arara and Sels finally bonded:
“Arara marched along the edge of the stage, uncomfortable with the audience’s gaze on her and sweltering with her thick fur packed in her ceremonial leather armor. Arara resisted the urge to reach under the armor and scratch her chest where it chaffed her. Through the bond Arara could feel that Sels was equally uncomfortable in his heavy, jewel-bedecked robes and elaborate vine-do.” (FC, p. 1)
But immediately there is drama:
“A Jegera wearing the uniform of a royal guard rushed onstage skidding to a stop in front of the Queen and Arara. ‘Your majesty, a mob has stormed the gates. They are inside the palace. We must get you and your family to safety.’” (FC, pgs. 3-4)
“‘What happened?’ Arara mumbled, her voice a hacking hoarse cough.
Sels chewed his lip, glancing between Arara and the door. ‘I was holding off the rioters with my fire when someone struck you with a lightning spell. I think it was meant to look like a natural strike, part of the storm.’” (FC, p. 9)
There are more deadly royal politics, assassins, and “dark plots” before Flower’s Curse comes to a happier ending.
Arara and Sels appear to be 14 or 15, adolescents frustrated by feeling like adults but treated by the real adults around them like children. Their adventures are told with plenty of drama and magic, and Arara and the Jegeras’ being anthropomorphic wolves make this a fairy tale that furry fans will enjoy.
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