Huntress – Renee Carter Hall

Synopsis: All her life, the young lioness Leya has dreamed of becoming one of the karanja, the proud huntresses of her people. But there’s more to being karanja than just learning to throw a spear. Life among their tents means giving up family, safety—even love. How much is Leya willing to sacrifice for a place in the sisterhood? Does she truly have the heart of a huntress?

Author Renee Carter Hall takes readers into the veld for this coming-of-age anthropomorphic fantasy for teens and adults. This edition includes the novella “Huntress” (nominated in the 2014 Ursa Major Awards and Cóyotl Awards), as well as three brand-new short stories set in the same world.

After reading Hall’s story in Kyell Gold’s X, I knew I wanted to read more stories by her. As expected, this book did not disappoint.

Hall sketches a beautiful world, inspired by Africa, in a rather simple, yet effective way. Because it is quite clear in the stories what the surroundings are based on, there is no need to spend multiple pages describing how a single blade of grass dances on the rhythm of the wind. Therefore, Hall chose not to, for which I am very grateful. We know what it looks like, and we know what to expect from the surroundings. After all, we’ve all seen the Lion King, right? Right?

The main story revolves around Leya, a young lioness who has her mind made up about what she wants to be in life, and is willing to make sacrifices. Girl things had never interested her anyway, as she’d always played with the boys. Her mom doesn’t agree with her, and she’d rather have her daughter stay at the village, get married, and have children. Sounds familiar? The setup of this story line is not that different from any other random fantasy story about a strong-headed female lead leaving the nest. However, Leya’s story is not as simple as it may seem.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

After Leya became part of the Karanja, having left love and life to follow her dream, things definitely weren’t as beautiful as she’d hoped. As a reader, this was very refreshing, and it really made Leya seem more real. Every person has their ups and downs, and so does this lioness. The way she slowly built a life for herself was very inspiring, and it made me want to keep reading to find out what would happen next.

The most shocking part in this entire story, was that Leya eventually ended up leaving the life she’d dreamed of ever since early childhood. After her first unplanned return to her village, I wasn’t expecting to see her leave the Karanja again. With permission this time.

This leads the reader to new places and new characters, who’re featured in the other short stories in the book. She learns new things and takes control of her own life once again while staying with these other characters: Ndiri, Shani, and Mtoto. The last few pages of the story were a real surprise to me, but it is definitely the perfect ending to this story.

 

END OF SPOILERS!

 

The other stories in the book are about the lives of Mtoto and Ndiri, and they create a beautiful, complete story when combined with Leya’s. They definitely add to the book as a whole.

Mtoto’s story “The Shape of the Sky” deals with Mtoto’s life as an adult living on his own. Leya is gone and Ndiri and Shani are no longer in the picture, so the boy takes care of himself. One day, a leopard and her wounded antelope arrives at the baobab tree. Mtoto takes care of them and nurses the antelope back to life, among doing other things.

Ndiri’s story “Where the Rivers Meet” is about Ndiri as a young girl, before meeting Leya, growing up as something called the bone mother. When a girl is orphaned young, it is said she is chosen by the gods to be their instrument on earth. Unlike Leya, who got to decide her own path, Ndiri’s is set in stone, and she struggles to follow it. Of course, after reading Leya’s story, we all know what happens eventually. However, it was nice to find out what happened before that.

The power of Huntress lies in the surprising, yet believable story, and the wonderful unique characters you meet while reading the story. Every significant character in the book is truly and clearly unique, which makes me quite happy as a reader.

Combine the wonderful story inside with the amazing artwork by Sekhmet on the outside, and a book is created that I simply couldn’t leave alone.

-Faolan

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Huntress – Renee Carter Hall

X – Kyell Gold

From Kyell Gold editor of X Join this crew of authors on their exploration of the Ten Commandments in everyday life. Well–everyday adult furry life. Discover what happens to naughty furries who make unto themselves an idol, who covet their neighbor’s property, who lie, steal, and kill. And, worst of all, who do not remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

In this short story anthology, editor Kyell Gold challenged nine other adult Furry writers to choose one of the Ten Commandments and have their way with it…so to speak. Kyell himself took whatever was left over and the result is ten finely crafted stories which are definitely not your grandmother’s Ten Commandments.

Includes stories by Alex Vance, Renee Carter Hall, Whyte Yote, Kyell Gold, pyrostinger, Fuzzwolf, Jonas, Not Tube, K. M. Hirosaki, and B. C. Currier.

While the subject matter is clearly not something you will find in Sunday School, it was ultimately surprising how many of the stories ended up re-affirming the intent of the original Commandment in the end. So, you still get your moral fiber — you just get there by a different…sometimes stickier…road is all.

With solid writing and outstanding illustrations, this is an outstanding anthology.

I couldn’t agree more with the above statement, taken from Rabbit Valley’s website: http://www.rabbitvalley.com. The ten stories inside are wonderfully written, and it is quite clear why Kyell Gold decided to enlist these specific authors for this blasphemously great anthology.

I picked up this title hoping to find smut, and smut I found. However, I found so much more. The wonderful writers managed to pull me into their worlds with every single story. I got to know many interesting and wonderful characters, whom I’d grown to love in the mere space of a few pages. It’s almost impossible to believe that so much greatness was captured in just one book.

It’s really hard for me to pick a favourite out of these stories, so I won’t. All stories in this anthology are great in their own way and they teach valuable lessons about life. Perhaps you’ll even recognize yourself in a story or two?

It was a lot of fun reading this book in the train, even though I had to slyly cover the wonderful art that goes with each story. I wouldn’t want to upset any old ladies after all!

I’d love to recommend this anthology to all lovers of erotic stories. You’ll probably discover one or more authors or artists you had no knowledge of before.

My hope is that Kyell Gold will take it upon himself to create another wonderful anthology with a different theme!

-FaolanSAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

X – Kyell Gold

The Seventh Chakra – Kevin Frane

Arkady Ryswife is a devout member of the Iolite League, a religious society dedicated to building the better world of the future. Behind the scenes, however, he is an elite soldier, a member of a covert wing of the League that ensures its ends are met where peaceful means do not suffice.

These operatives have a mission to recover crucial fragments of the world’s lost, fractured history. Arkady’s team is not the only one willing to kill for these relics   just the best. At least, until a fatal mistake leaves the team in shambles on the eve of what may be the most important mission of their lives.

Forced back into the field without delay, Arkady and his companions must recover a piece of data that the League has been seeking for years. Still reeling from their loss, they must go behind enemy lines, outsiders in a notoriously xenophobic nation. Isolated and suspicious of betrayal at every turn, they plunge into the web of one of the world’s most astonishing mysteries, a journey from which none of them will return unscathed.

Cover illustrations by Kamui.

Published by Sofawolf.

It took me a while to actually decide to buy this book. The reason for this was the blurb on the back of the book. I just wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy it. However, because I am a horrible person and judge books by their covers, I decided to take a leap of faith and bought the book, due to the fantastic cover art. Great job there, Kamui!

This is the second book by Kevin Frane in the same setting, but I actually didn’t know that. If I’d known, I’d probably gone for his other book Thousand Leaves first. However, the two stories are independent enough of each other, that they can be read in any order.

It certainly didn’t feel like that when I started on the first chapter though. As a reader, you’re thrown into the story and into a situation where all kinds of things are happening, but you know absolutely nothing. I tend to get quite confused when characters know more than I do. It doesn’t take long until you catch up on things though. Not that you won’t get confused as a reader after that though, as this book has its fill of confusing events and characters.

Talking about characters, I have to say that I think most characters in this book are actually quite likable and interesting, including the antagonists. Arkady is a very likeable person, and Ming-Jun was also someone I enjoyed reading about. Everybody seems to have their reasons for doing things the way they do, and once I got the whole picture, I really couldn’t view the antagonists as antagonists anymore. However, there was one character that really drove me insane. SPOILER ALERT!

The one person in the whole book that I absolutely couldn’t stand was Il-Hyeong. This was mainly because I had absolutely no idea why that character did what he did. Usually, it’s quite easy for me to understand why certain characters do certain things, but this fox is an enigma. There were many moments in this book where I would’ve loved to personally shoot him in the face. It’s too bad that Arkady had too big a heart to do so, which was another point of frustration. This one character killed off some of the characters I liked most, and his paranoia level was over 9000, which made him a real pain in the ass. I’d say I was relieved whenever he was out of the picture for a while.

I think Frane meant for him to be a mystery and a point of frustration though, because when a character is this messed up, it has to be intentional. Good job at playing with my emotions, Frane!

END OF SPOILER ALERT!

The world in which all of these events take place is wonderfully designed by Frane, and he seems to have thought of everything while designing it. The thing I loved most about it, is that it takes place in the far far future, but it doesn’t feel too sci-fi for me. The history of the world, the different religious and cultural groups, and the way that Frane portrayed the world in the book just made it feel complete. Even though I didn’t know anything of this setting, the book gave me a very subtle guided tour while I was following the story.

I cannot say for sure, but it seems to me that the story took place in a world inspired by Asia, perhaps due to Frane having lived in Japan for a while? I base this on the character’s names, which definitely sound Chinese and Korean to me, and on the implementation of Zhōngwén, which is basically a form of Chinese. I’d suspected this as soon as the language was used in the book, but didn’t know for sure until the very end.

Due to me actually being unable to really point out the true antagonists in this book, I had trouble putting my finger on the actual plot. We were following Arkady on his mission, of course, but there were so many questions I had while reading, that I sometimes got a little confused. The characters themselves also had no idea what was going on most of the time. That one character being such an asshole really didn’t help either. Frane truly plunged us into a giant web of deceit, lies, betrayal, and secrets.

However, most of the questions actually get answered by the time you get to the end, and I must say that I’m quite pleased with the path Arkady chose for himself.

After reading this book, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading Thousand Leaves as well, when that time comes.

-Faolan

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The Seventh Chakra – Kevin Frane