by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Helga: Out of Hedgelands, by Rick Johnson. Map.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2014, trade paperback $14.99 ([ii] 583 pages), Kindle $0.99 free with app.
The five volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles are really only four volumes, published between March 2014 and September 2015; with a 37-page appendix only on Kindle, Dragons: The Untold Story, published as volume 5 for readers who want to know more about the backstory of the Dragons in the story. The pricing is designed to encourage the sales of the Kindle editions. The four volumes are vol. 1, Helga: Out of Hedgelands, March 2014; vol. 2, The Overending, March 2014; vol. 3, Silversion, February 2015; and vol. 4, Willowers, September 2015.
Helga was published in March 2014, but carries a 2012 copyright notice. It begins in a small fogbound harbor town, where a stagecoach is just leaving:
“Just outside, Livery Rats scrambled to prepare the Drownlands Weekly for departure. Travelers loaded quickly as burly Dock Squirrels tossed bags and trunks into the rooftop baggage rack. As soon as the baggage was loaded, the Weekly rolled away from the station with creaking timbers and rattling brass, its freshly serviced wheels smelling strongly of snake grease.
Bouncing along the bare track leading away from the Drownlands station, the Weekly rumbled through the sparsely settled frontier of the Rounds. Except for the Weekly and a few cargo wagons, the bone-jarring road was little used. A river of mud when it rained and a dust-choked washboard of ruts in the dry season, the many stones in the Cutoff road gave its only predictable surface.
Three of the passengers in the Weekly on this particular spring day were creatures we will hear much about in this account of former days. There was a strongly muscled young Wood Cow with soft, thick hair and a lively face. Dressed after the manner of her clan – long barkweave jacket and leggings, lizardskin boots, forest green linen shirt – Helga dozed fitfully, her head lolling against the jostling headboard. Although exhausted by her long journey, a smile played across her face. The sound of the rumbling wagon assured her that she was, indeed, at long last coming home.” (pgs. 2-3)
I’ve quoted this at length to give you a taste of Johnson’s writing. Depending on your taste, it’s either incredibly padded and takes forever for anything to happen, or it’s incredibly rich in detail, so much so that you almost object to the action that sidetracks you from the abundant descriptions of the anthropomorphic world in which it’s set – Helga’s world.