by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Demon and the Fox, by Tim Susman. Illustrated by Laura Garabedian.
Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, July 2018, trade paperback, $17.95 (277 pages), ebook $9.95.
The Demon and the Fox is subtitled “Book Two of The Calatians”. Book One, The Tower and the Fox, was published last year, and The War and the Fox, the concluding book of the trilogy, will be published next year.
Kip Penfold is a teenage fox-Calatian in a world analogous to New England in the early 1800s where the American Revolution failed in 1775. The Calatians are magically uplifted anthro animals, legally considered full humans but prejudiced against as inferior by most humans; at the bottom of society. (Along with women. And the Irish. Don’t ask about the Negroes or the Native Americans.)
There have never been any but White Caucasian (which doesn’t include the Irish) male sorcerers before, but an unexpected, almost fatal attack from an unknown enemy has forced Prince George’s College of Sorcery in New Cambridge, Massachusetts to open itself to a wider call for applicants to replace its murdered students – “any Colonist of magical inclination and ability may apply” – and Kip, along with an otter-Calatian, a woman, and an Irishman take advantage of it.
In my review of The Tower and the Fox, I said that “In a sense, this is a typical British schoolboy novel in a fantasy setting. […] Despite the official call for applicants, there are those among both the college faculty and the other students who consider it disgraceful that non-Whites (including Irish), animals/Calatians, and women are allowed to become students. They are determined to make them fail. […] The Tower and the Fox covers the first semester of the College of Sorcery’s new class.”
The Demon and the Fox begins with the start of the second semester. All four have survived, and Kip is now the apprentice of Master Odden, one of the College’s full sorcerers and teachers. Their work, both for Kip’s learning and for the College’s defense, is to discover who was behind the magical attack on the College about six months ago that almost destroyed it.
The first sorcery Kip learns horrifies him, and almost breaks up the quartet:
“Kip’s indecision over whether to tell his friends about the calyx ritual lasted all of four minutes once they were again all together in the basement. ‘They drink the blood of Calatians!’ he said, pacing back and forth through the old papers and dusty stone floor.
Coppy, the otter-Calatian who’d also become an apprentice, didn’t react with the horror Kip had hoped. ‘I thought it might be something like that,’ he said.
‘You never said. We talked about it for months!’
‘I know.’ Coppy rested a paw on Kip’s arm. ‘Didn’t want to upset you. People do horrible things to Calatians in London and I heard summat about blood when I was a cub there.’
Kip’s tail lashed back and forth. ‘I wish you’d told me.’
‘I couldn’t.’ Coppy squeezed his forearm. ‘It was your dad. If he wouldn’t tell you, ‘twasn’t my place.’
‘You don’t have to protect me all the time,’ Kip said.
The otter lifted his paw and rubbed at his whiskers. ‘But I really didn’t know for sure. Why start trouble with rumours?’” (p. 13)