Longtails: The Storms of Spring, by Jaysen Headley – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Longtails: The Storms of Spring, by Jaysen Headley. Map.
Orlando, FL, the author, April 2018, trade paperback, $14.95 (338 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.

“In a not too distant future, humanity is extinct. The world is now ruled by animals who wield swords, magic and technology to create and protect vast empires. As darkness grows on the horizon, an unlikely hero will be chosen to defend this new world.” (blurb)

I am immediately turned off by this. It’s the difference between the book and the movie of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH/The Secret of NIMH. In the book, things are accomplished through Science. The mice and rats have their intelligence raised through scientific experimentation, but are otherwise unchanged. The new society that the rats build is based on what they need. It doesn’t have lots of electric lights because the rats are used to living without lights. The rats don’t wear clothes because they have fur. They scurry on all fours. Nicodemus, their leader, is a wise rat who studies much. In the movie, the rats walk upright and have built a hidden imitation human town with lots of lighting. They dress in medieval clothes, and Nicodemus is a wizard who can work Magic.

Both the book and the movie have their fans. If you liked the movie, you will probably love Longtails, Book One: The Storms of Spring.

“Biological warfare and radiation during World War 4 have had surprising effects on the creatures of the world. Some for the better. Some for the worse. Raccoons scour the countryside for motorbike parts. Squirrels have taken to the sky aboard flying ships. Danger lurks around every corner.” (p. 1)

Del Hatherhorne is an average brown mouse. “He came to live in an abandoned apartment room in the northern part of the great mouse city of Verden.   His new home was on the third floor of a complex, located at the corner of 14th Street and Larimer – according to their corresponding rusted green street signs at least.” (p. 7) The World War has apparently killed all the humans but left their city intact for the mice to move into. “He’d fallen in love with the vacant studio apartment the moment he’d laid eyes on it. Shelves adorning pale blue walls were filled floor to ceiling with everything from manga (Japanese comics which read right to left), to comics (mostly published by DC but with a spattering of Marvel, Image and Darkhorse), to video games (a wide assortment with role-playing games and puzzlers making up the bulk of it) and even old movies (names like Spielberg, Lucas and Ridley Scott were embossed along the spines of the shimmering boxes).” (p. 8)

Del gets an old human computer, too. It all sounds very Mary-Sue. “From Spider-Man’s troubled youth to Kenshin’s search for redemption, to Batman’s vengeance for his parents’ death, Del was hard-pressed to ever take his furry face away from the pages of a book. But at night, he would finally take a break from reading, only to use an old fuel generator to power up the computer.” (p. 9)

It isn’t all scrounging from the civilization of the dead humans. “It wasn’t all business at the market though. Del also enjoyed overhearing stories of the brave members of the Longtails, a mouse-made military force commanded by the Council of Five. The Council was the ruling body of the Mouselands that decided all things in the way of mouse livelihood. From magic-wielding members of the Spectrum Halls, who fought off an infestation of horned beetles; to brave fighters and sharp-shots defending the Mouselands from foxes and roaming raccoons just past the borders of mouse territories; Del found these stories almost as exciting as those involving Harry, Ron and Hermione as they fought to stop the rising evil of Voldemort alongside their rising piles of Potions homework.” (p. 11)

Do you get the impression from this that Del and the other mice are mouse-sized or human-sized? It sometimes seems like one thing and sometimes like the other.

Well, let’s skip the pages and pages of background and get to the plot. Del is reading a graphic novel in his apartment when his attention is drawn to three of the Longtails in the street below (shown in a later scene on Dexter Allagahrei’s cover), who conveniently address each other by name; Denya (the ladymouse in the red cloak), Roderick (the white mouse in a red coat and feathered hat), and Arthur (in black). That’s Del in green with the navy blue & turquoise scarf on the cover. (Headley’s description is very detailed.) They are being stalked by a mink assassin. Del is suddenly compelled to warn them, at some danger to himself, and he magically defeats the mink, which reveals him as a Trelock with magic powers. The Longtails want him to join them.

“‘You can’t just leave!’ barked Arthur, finally taking Del seriously. There was no more evidence of levity in his voice or in his pale face. ‘Do you have any idea how incredible it is that we found you? Your abilities would be invaluable to the Longtails. You’d be on the shortlist for the most prestigious bands. Leave? I daresay, that would be like shutting the door on your destiny!’

‘I don’t want to join a Longtails band! I don’t want a destiny!’ squeaked Del. ‘I just want to sit on my windowsill and read my book. I just want to go home.’” (pgs. 37-38)

Mary-Sue again, or Bilbo Baggins protesting that he doesn’t want to go on an adventure. You know how well that works.

Headley’s plot is ridiculously simplistic, but his writing is quite good, and it certainly doesn’t lack action:

[Del is reading a manga in his apartment. He hears a noise in the hall outside.]

Ting. Ting. Ting. A strange sound hit his ears from the direction of the apartment door […] He rolled onto his side to face the door and listened for the source of the sound. The rhythmic metallic clink seemed to be getting faster, like the sound of a fan or engine revving up in slow motion to a steady rotation. He couldn’t quite place it though. It was a completely new noise in the typically quiet building. Sure, there were families living in other units above and below him and even some on the same floor, but he rarely heard so much as a peep from them.

The sound grew faster and closer. He could hear it zipping back and forth from one end of the door’s bottom edge to the other. Del focused his eyes on the lower portion of the door, waiting for some clue as to what was causing the noise. Suddenly, his bubble of solitude broke as loud shots of rapid gunfire filled the air. Bullets sprayed through the bottom half of the door, tearing away at the wood.

Del dove for cover, leaping behind his book as though it might actually be strong enough to protect him. He peeked out just as the bottom fourth of the door was dismantled by bullets. Dust and debris flooded the now empty space between what was left of the door and the hardwood flooring. In the aftermath cloud, Del could just make out a slender shadow stepping through the opening.

As the dust settled around him, it revealed a mink standing on its hind legs with completely jet-black fur, except for a small patch of white on its chin. Del immediately noticed the mink’s right forearm and paw were missing, and in their place was a six-barreled Gatling minigun. It attached just above where the mink’s elbow should have been. As the mink stood in the doorway, the barrels began to spin down slowly, smoke drifting up from them.” (pgs. 49-50)

It might be exciting if Del’s Trelock power didn’t make him so invulnerable. Anyhow, Del joins Roderick, Denya, and Arthur; and if the resulting adventure isn’t as exciting as The Lord of the Rings, it isn’t because Headley doesn’t try. To be continued in Longtails, Book Two: The Wildfires of Summer.

Fred Patten

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