Francis; Dragon Outcast; Eulalia!; Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol; Once Upon a Time in the North; and Faradawn & Simon’s Dream

reviewed by Fred Patten
©2008 Fred Patten

Home -=- #19 -=- Reviews
-= ANTHRO =-

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 1
Cover of the 1946 Farrar, Straus & Co. edition
Title: Francis
Author: David Stern
Illustrator: Garrett Price
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Co. (NYC), Oct 1946
ISBN: 0-123-45678-9
x + 216 pages, $2.50

   This novel is really the fifteen ‘Francis the talking-flying mule’ short stories that Stern wrote for magazines like Esquire while serving on an Army newspaper in Honolulu during World War II, with a slight rewrite to connect them better.
   The stories are narrated by a nameless second lieutenant (dubbed Peter Stirling in the sequel and in the movies) who finds himself rushed through an East Coast college’s ROTC and sent to fight the Japs in the mountainous Burmese countryside. In the first story, he gets lost from the platoon he is supposed to be leading, and is caught between the shelling of both sides:

   I’d half-risen to make a run for it when I heard the whine of a shell. With the instinct one learns quickly in battle, I dove, rolled over three times, and came to a stop sitting up.
    I was at the bottom of a slight ravine surrounded by low banyan trees. I looked around.
Standing a few feet from me was a runt of an Army mule, as sad a creature as ever hauled a load away. His head hung low and his back hung lower. The animal’s hide was bespattered and anointed with what appeared to be a collection of all that was worst in Burma.
    I scanned the ravine.
    Except for the mule, it was empty.
    I began feeling myself all over to discover if I was injured. When I came to my posterior I winced. Nothing serious, but tender.
   “Isn’t this one hell of a mess?” I must have spoken aloud.
   “You said a mouthful,” said a voice.
    I leaped to my feet. Frantically I searched the ravine, following my gaze with the muzzle of my carbine.
   “I suggest you pull your head down,” said the voice, “or you’ll get it blown off.”
   “Who said that?” I demanded.
   “I did.” The voice was close.
   “Where are you?” I swung completely around.
   “Right in front of you.”
    I could see nothing except the mule.
   “I can’t see you,” I said. “Come out or I’ll shoot.”
   “I am out,” said the voice. “And you better put up that gun before you hurt somebody.”
(pgs. 4-5)

   Most of I Meet Francis consists of the lieutenant slowly being convinced in the midst of an artillery barrage that he is really talking with a mule, and Francis’ arguing that Army mules are more important than second lieutenants:

   “Next step,” said the mule, “I calculate I am worth exactly seven of you.”
   “You heard me, lieutenant. I’m worth to the Army exactly seven of you.’’
   “And how do you arrive at that figure?”
   “I’ll show you,” Francis said.“Simplicity itself. Shipping space is at a premium. The Army allots as much boat space to one mule as to seven lieutenants.”
   “So what!”
   “So the Army could have brought seven lieutenants over to Burma. But it didn’t. It brought me.”
(pg. 13)

   Francis gets the wounded lieutenant out of the artillery deathtrap and back to safety at the Burma Headquarters Base Hospital. Captains and majors congratulate the lieutenant on his skill and cleverness in escaping alone through the jungle. But the lieutenant is an honest man, and insists on giving credit to the talking mule for rescuing him. This gets the lieutenant three weeks in the hospital’s neuropsychiatric ward.
   The lieutenant tries to insist on Francis showing his true nature to the whole Army so he can be properly rewarded—Francis Considers OCS—which Francis refuses to cooperate with because he does not want publicity. Francis uses the lieutenant as a figurehead to warn the Army about some enemy sabotage or mission that is about to befall Burma GHQ (Francis Makes a Phone Call). Francis is happy to let the lieutenant claim all the credit, which he reluctantly does because he gets tired of being sent back to the neuropsychiatric ward. But eventually the colonels and generals in G-2 (military intelligence) insist on being told where he is getting his information from. The lieutenant is not going to lie to his superior officers. The next few stories have the lieutenant sneaking out of the psycho ward to get whatever new information about Jap air raids or other impending action that Francis has just learned about, and giving it to his superiors with a “don’t believe me, but has my information been wrong yet?” attitude. Eventually even his superiors are trying to catch Francis exhibiting intelligence. Stern must have planned his stories carefully to keep Francis from being ‘unmasked’ before the war ended.
   The final story (Francis Comes to a Dubious End) wraps up Francis’ and the lieutenant’s wartime careers nicely. It suggests that Stern was unsure in 1946 how popular his rah!-rah!-America!! military mule would be in peacetime. Very popular, as Universal Pictures proved with its series of seven Francis the Talking Mule movies from 1950 through 1957. Francis itself went through several printings, and Stern wrote a sequel, Francis Goes to Washington (1948), entering the ex-lieutenant into politics with Francis as his campaign manager. It ends on a cliffhanger indicating that Stern planned at the time to write more; but in 1949 he bought a New Orleans newspaper and spent the rest of his career managing it.

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 1
Title: Dragon Outcast
(The Age of Fire, Book Three)
Author: E. E. Knight
Map: Thomas Manning
Publisher: Roc/New American Library (NYC), Dec 2007
ISBN: 0-451-46185-1
Trade Paperback, 354 [+ 1] pages, USD $14.00

   Dragon Champion Dragon Champion and Dragon Avenger (reviewed in Anthro #7 and #12, respectively) introduced the dragons Auron and his sister Wistala. Male dragon hatchlings instinctually fight to the death, and grayish Auron was the unexpected winner in his battle with his red- and copper-scaled brothers. The latter survived but was seriously injured. When the dragon family was later attacked by savage dwarves and apparently all slaughtered except for newborn Auron and Wistala, the coppery hatchling was assumed to have perished also.
   Instead he emerges as the protagonist of Dragon Outcast. Where Auron and Wistala spent their separate adventures trying to find each other, and learn why the mighty dragons have been dwindling to the verge of extinction, the Copper has a much darker fate—literally.
   Dragon Outcast begins as do the first two novels; repeating the events of the first weeks after the dragons’ eggs’ hatching, but focusing upon the Copper hatchling. Male dragons are supposed to fight until there is only one survivor, but the Copper is wounded and pushed off a ledge while Auron kills the red brother. By the time the Copper climbs back up, Auron has been anointed by their parents as their only son:

   He made one more attempt at the climb. Not to fight this time, but to be by Mother, safe and warm, wrapped in music and belly heat. Mother’s great tail dropped over the edge and pushed him down. She looked down at him from the heights of her neck.
   “No, little one, Auron has won the egg shelf. If you come up again he will kill you.”
   He tried to reply, but the only noises he seemed to be able to make were squeaks, not words. He tried, came close, tried again.
   “I’m sorry, hatchling. You are an outcast. You must learn to overcome on your own.”
   He huddled against the base of the egg shelf, cold and alone.
(pg. 9)

   The outcast survives by eating slugs, rats, and offal off the ground of their cave. Their Father develops a grudging admiration for his determination to live:

   “What name I? I name how?”
   “You’re not of the nest, cripple. You don’t need to be named. I’m not even sure you can be called a dragon in the lifesong.”
   That just made him miserable, and he lowered his head.
   “That’s no way to look, hatchling. You’re unique, as far as my family memory goes. None of my line of sires ever saw a second male survive. You’re not of the clutch, yet you’re of our kind, and the cave’s so big Auron can drive you away, but not out, so to speak. Neither scale nor claw, son nor stranger.”
   The Copper formed his next words carefully, and they came out better. “You my father. That prove me your son!”
   “You may be lame in body, but your wit’s quick enough. That’s your mother speaking with your tongue. If you’ve got her brains, I expect you’ll survive at least until you leave the cave.”
(pg. 13)

   The Copper, alone and naïve, hating ‘the Gray Rat’ (Auron), is tricked by a war party of dwarves into betraying his family. Events unfold as described in the first two novels, but while Auron and Wistala escape upwards into the outer world, the Copper is carried by a subterranean river downward into lower caverns.
   Where Auron and Wistala briefly met talking wolves and condors and cats in their adventures, the Copper finds a dark world inhabited by vampire bats:

   A horridly upturned face, all ears, black eyes, and nostrils, regarded him from the cavern wall. The thing had leathery wings, with a gripping digit not unlike a dragon’s wing-spur. It was a bat, fully three times the size of the ones he’d seen in the home cave. And he’d never understood a word of their high-pitched chatter.
   “E’breathing!” a second, smaller but wider one behind said.
   “Cave lizard, m’think,” the larger said, hanging from his tiny rear legs for a better look. “Strange sort. Hurt.”
   The hanging one rubbed his face up and down with his wings, licking his grip-digit and rearranging the face-fur, though there was only so much that could be done with such ugliness. “M’name’s Thernadad, an e’be m’mated, Mamedi. A’begging your pardon, sir. Y’be hurt. W’can attend that for you.” (pgs. 46-47)

   The Copper helps the bats in their fight with the giant white snakes led by King Gan:

   The Copper just knew he was afraid.
   “You must be King Gan,” he managed to say, though the words sounded a little croaky.
   He’d never seen such black eyes. The way they fixed on him, so exactly aligned, it was as if the entire earth were a little off-kilter, as measured by the level of those eyes.
   “I am. And all within sight, sound, hearing, and heat is mine. You are mine.”
(pg. 60)

   But the snakes ultimately overwhelm the bats. The Copper leads an exodus of a few of the bats back into the underground river and further downstream towards a Lavadome that the bat Enjor swears is the home of dragons. They find new caverns that are the mines of warring nations of hominids such as the dwarves, blighters, and demen (Deep Men), who may have started off as humans but have evolved into something else:

   The Copper examined the faces. These were no dwarves or men; they were thicker-skinned than either, pebbled like a dragon’s stomach and with thick ridges of horn making fearsome flanges at the skull and jawline. A row of spines, thin as straw, grew from their backbones. (pg. 78)

   The Copper floats into a raid by the demen on the eggs of griffaran, intelligent creatures halfway between dragons and birds:

   The Copper turned his head so he could watch the flier with his good eye. It was a strange sort of creature, a half dragon with twin tails, hardly any neck at all capped by a tall, arching head with a hooked snout, and feathered wings. It rose and turned, screeching, and another almost identical flier passed, flying in the opposite direction. The other reached out a claw and grabbed the kicking legs of the deman, and with only the briefest of jerks the deman parted messily. (pg. 99)

   The griffaran, allies of the true dragons of the Lavadome, mistakenly thank the Copper for trying to rescue their eggs. With this, the Copper is brought into the nation of dragons where the main story takes place. As with Dragon Champion and Dragon Avenger, Dragon Outcast does not really start until this point; but where the other books told of their dragons’ adventures among men and other hominids, Dragon Outcast places the Copper into a civilization of dragons.
   He cannot believe at first that he has finally fallen into good fortune. He is credited with being a hero; is adopted as the ward of the Tyr, the dragon’s king; is given a name, Rugaard (RuGaard when he matures into adult dragonhood); and becomes a cadet officer in the Drakwatch. But he is also thrown into the maelstrom of decadent dragon politics and warfare, deadly among the dragons themselves and doubly so among them and their hominid allies and enemies in the world outside the caverns. Readers along with the Copper become the companions of numerous dragons, friends, rivals, and lovers, along with their hominid thralls (slaves), in a more anthropomorphized reptilian society than the previous novels.
   The Copper’s adventures seem to lead to a different fate than his two siblings, alone in the upper world; but at the end The Age of Fire is still continuing. Readers who enjoyed Dragon Champion and Dragon Avenger will not be disappointed with Dragon Outcast (aside from a couple of brief statements that reveal Knights thinks that bats are rodents: The adult bats aged quickly, in the manner of rodents. [pg. 135]) Book Four, Dragon Strike, is due in December 2008.

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 1
Title: Eulalia!
Author: Brian Jacques
Illustrator: David Elliot
Publisher: Philomel Books (NYC), Oct 2007
ISBN: 0-399-24209-0
Hardcover, ix + 389 pages, USD $23.99

   Ho-hum. Another Redwall novel: #19, not counting such spinoffs as The Redwall Cookbook, The Great Redwall Feast, and A Redwall Winter’s Tale. See my review of #17, Rakkety Tam, in Anthro #3. I did not review #18, High Rhulain, but it is more of the same.
   A murderous villain—in this case the golden fox Captain Vizka Longtooth and his band of rat Sea Raiders, with the young badger captive Gorath in tow—sets out to pillage and destroy Redwall Abbey. Meanwhile the aged badger Lord Asheye of Salamandastron has a premonition of his own death, and he assigns the haremaid Mad Maudie of the fortress’ Long Patrol to find his successor. Also meanwhile, the Goodbeasts of Redwall Abbey have grown exasperated with young hedgehog Orkwil’s cute kleptomania and banish him from the Abbey for a season to force him to learn to stop ‘borrowing’ others’ property. Meanwhile again, Gruntan Kurdly’s horde of landgoing Brownrat savages has its own nefarious designs on the Abbey. Even with a scorecard, it is hard to keep all the players straight.
   Are there any differences between the previous books and Eulalia!? There are two bands of vermin instead of one, but aside from their costuming as a bloodthirsty pirate gang and as a primitive pseudo-Mongol horde, they act and speak identically. Eulalia! downplays the feasting and riddles a bit, but increases the number of colorful accents to what must be a maximum. There are the uneducated villains:

   Codj held out his beaker for a refill. “Ya mean Windflin Wildbrush, der great Sea Raider?”
   Vizka nodded. “Aye, dat was ’im. Well, let me tell ya, Windflin was slayed by a stripe’ound wot ’ad der Bloodwrath. It was at dat place wid a funny name, Sammerstrong I t’ink, a big mountain castle, far down der sou’west shores. They says der beast wot killed Windflin was an ole stripe’ound called Asheye, a real mad Bloodwrath beast who couldn’t be defeated.”
(pg. 12)

   …the pompous upper-class English military hares:

   “Inside it is, sah, teatime doncha know, hot scones, dab o’ meadowcream, strawb’rry preserve, an’ mint tea, wot! A charmin’ an’ delicious daily ritual, sah!” (pg. 18)

   … the ‘quaintly spoken’ Yorkshire moles:

   “Bee’s you’m up thurr, zurr h’Abbot, wull ee bestest cumm daown. Oi’ve founded ee likkle scallywagger!” (pg. 29)

   … the Abbey’s infant Dibbuns with their baby talk:

   “We all be h’Elders, us goin’ inna gate’ouse, an’ ’ave a word wiv naughty Orkwilt!” (pg. 31)

   … the brutal Sand Lizards with their hissing reptilian threats:

   “Gizzzzzz vittlessss, ssssoilmoussssse!”
   “Give vittlessss to ussss, or elsssse!”
(pg. 48)

   …the owl, with his highland Scots brogue:

   “Whoohooooh! Ah’ve no doubt that thee’ll forgive me, tarry there, lass, ah’m fair clemmed for t’want of a lizard!” (pg. 75)

   …the otters with the Aberdeen Scots accent that Robert Newton popularized in Disney’s Treasure Island:

   Barbowla nodded. “Thankee, miz, but it ain’t naught to weep over. I’m more worried about Kurdly an’ his rat horde. If they’re trailin’ you an’ the shrews, then ’tis for sure they’ll bump into us. We wouldn’t stand a chance agin the numbers Kurdly commands.” (pg. 156)

   … and an Irish squirrel:

   Rangval twitched his nose in the horde’s direction. “Shure an’ who doesn’t know o’ that ’un around here. I’ve been crossin’ swords wid that boyo since he first showed his snotty nose in these parts. D’ye need my help now, Maudie, just say the word, me darlin’, an’ tis meself that’ll put a spoke in his wheel.” (pg. 171)

   Eulalia! also seems to have more names that go beyond being colorful (such as the otters Barbowla Boulderdog and his wife Kachooch) to the downright silly. There are Major Mullein Braggwuth Barshaw and Mad Maudie (the Hon.) Mugsberry Thropple, two hares; the hedgehog Orkwil Prink (apparently named just so he can be taunted as “Orful Stink”); the fat Brownrat Gruntan Kurdly; and the Guosim shrew leader Log a Log Luglug.
   The vermin are flamboyantly villainous:

   Flinging a heavy cape across his shoulders, Captain Vizka Longtooth smiled, exposing a pair of oversized fangs. Firty swallowed hard. He, like every Sea Raider aboard the Bludgullet, had come to know the danger in Longtooth’s smile. (pg. 3)

   Gruntan Kurdly was the biggest of all his horde, both in height and girth. Brownrats smeared themselves with dyes and ochres, mainly yellow and blue, adorning themselves with the bones of their enemies, giving the horde a savage appearance. But none could outdo Gruntan in colour, or barbarity. He was a virtual rainbow of daubs, stripes and blotches of all hues. Around his huge waist, he sported a wide belt hung with skulls, ranging from birds to reptiles, with a few vermin craniums. These were a reminder to his horde, to show them who was warlord. (pg. 123)

   How many hundreds of reviewers have wondered why psychotic villains who constantly kill their underlings in gruesome ways always have lots of fresh underlings ready to join up? This goes back at least as far as fan commentary on comic-book writer Denny O’Neil’s remake of the Batman villain the Joker, in the early 1970s, as a homicidal lunatic who used his always-fatal ‘laughing venom’ for kicks on his own gang. Going-on-forty years later, both writers and readers seemingly cannot get enough of sadistic villains who love to slaughter their own henchmen, despite all the times it’s been pointed out how self-defeating this would be in realistic fiction.
   If you have never read a Redwall book before, the first, Redwall (1986), is the best, written before the formula set in and the menaces gradually crept to ridiculous extremes. Then read Eulalia! for the comparison that over twenty years of variations on the same formula have brought. Otherwise, Eulalia! is for hardcore Redwall completists.

Interior illustration for Chapter 1

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 1
Title: Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Author: Chas. P. A. Melville
Illustrator: The author
Publisher: CaféPress (Foster City, CA), Jan 2008
Trade paperback, 69 pages, USD $10.00

   Chuck Melville created the vixen Mage Felicia cla di Burrows in his self-published comic book The Champion of Katara in 1986. She starred in comic-book stories during the 1990s, then began appearing in text adventures in 2004 in this series of booklets from CaféPress. These include Felicia and the Dreaded Book of Un (February 2004), Felicia and the Tailcutter’s Curse (June 2004), Felicia and the Wrath of the Elder Glops (August 2006; reviewed in Anthro #10), Felicia and the Cult of the Rubber Nose (March 2007; reviewed in Anthro #15), and now Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol.
   I criticized the last two novelettes for being overly comedic and slapstick in comparison with Felicia’s graphic novel adventures. Border Collie Patrol is closer to Melville’s original depiction of the vixen sorceress as using her magic for forbidden personal vengeance in an as-yet-unexplained family feud. Border Collie is not a dark or horrific story; in fact, it could be called the lightest of the five CaféPress tales, because it is the first in which nobody is killed. (Transformed into lemon trees, yes; killed, no.) But Felicia’s lone fight against the powerful cla di Howler wolf clan is back on stage, and if the action never becomes grim, neither does it become silly.
   The story begins as Felicia uses her sorcery to defeat an attempted assassination by di Howler’s agents at her keep; but they manage to burn her formal garden to ashes before they retreat. Felicia determines to rebuild her garden:

   “Rodentia,” she said again, thinking aloud. “Perhaps I can kill two birds with one stone! Besides obtaining seeds, I can pay a visit to the Rodentarian Society and hire a Gatherer or two to seek information for me! They can gather news so I can begin planning an appropriate revenge for this atrocity! Yes, I like that! It may become costly, but it’ll be worth it!” She clapped her hands in delight. “To Rodentia, then! I’ll have my garden back, and my revenge as well!” (pg. 15)

   Mice have appeared in previous stories, but this is the first to show them at home in their own nation. As the only one of the animal-peoples of Katara who are tiny instead of being human-sized, the Rodentians have taken advantage of their ability to go unnoticed to become information-gatherers and merchants throughout the world. We learn in Border Collie that Rodentia shares borders with Ra Kuna and Felicia’s own homeland of Dogonia, and it is close enough to the marshy lands of Fungor for raids by Fungor’s brutal toad warriors to be a serious problem. The Rodentians have hired border collie guards to patrol their borders to keep the toads out, but the guards are supposed to keep out of Rodentia themselves to avoid accidently stepping on any buildings or inhabitants: Nearly completely covered by a large bush was a sign planted at knee-height that read, Welcome to Rodentia, and pointed to a track just large enough for mice to travel along. Next to the sign was a second notice advising, You must be this small to enter, and pointed to a mark about the height of Felicia’s ankle. (pg. 17) Rodentia is settled with mouse-sized towns (metropolis: New Gouda) connected by mouse-sized roads, with a few special giant-sized main roads and congregating buildings in the main cities for the full-sized travelers who have business with the mice.
   Felicia does not have to worry because she can shrink herself to mouse size with her magic. But before she can do so, she is intercepted by Bendix, a frantic Border Collie Patrol guard who is so apologetically nervous about doing his job properly that Felicia is amused by his clumsy attempts to help her. Felicia continues on and eventually is concluding her business with New Gouda’s mayor Phineas Q. Twitchtail, when Bendix stumbles into town in a panic, not stepping on too many buildings, to report a war party of toad raiders in the neighborhood. Felicia unexpectedly volunteers to help Bendix dispose of them. She is not just being altruistic; she has a plan to gain the mices’ gratitude and further her revenge against di Howler at the same time – if the well-meaning Bendix does not accidentally ruin everything.
   Felicia: The Border Collie Patrol expands readers’ worldview of Katara a little more, and finally re-presents the original image of Felicia as having the ulterior motive of building up her planned revenge against the enemies who destroyed her clan, as she performs her latest good deeds. This is one of the best of the Felicia booklets so far, illustrated by Melville with a quarter-, half-, or full-page drawing every few pages; although it would still be nice to see Felicia in a full-length novel of 200 or so pages.

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 1
Title: Once Upon a Time in the North
Author: Philip Pullman
Illustrator: John Lawrence

UK edition
Publisher: David Fickling Books (London), Apr 2008
ISBN: 0-385-61432-2
Hardcover, 95 [+ 8 & removable foldout board game] pages, UK £9.99

US edition
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (NYC), Apr 2008
ISBN: 0-375-84510-0
Hardcover, 95 [+8 & removable foldout board game] pages, US $12.99

   Philip Pullman’s British fantasy His Dark Materials I: Northern Lights (1995), published in America as The Golden Compass (1996—reviewed in Anthro #17), has rapidly become a classic, especially since the release of the motion picture in 2007. The other two volumes of the trilogy, The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2001), are not quite as popular (at least with anthropomorphic fans), because they emphasize the human characters and downplay the physically manifest souls that all people in this parallel world have—the talking-animal dæmons—and the armored bears.
   The trilogy has become so well-known (and controversial due to its anti-religious nature) that Pullman has returned to it to write short, tiny (6.8" x 4.6") spinoff books. The first, Lyra’s Oxford (2003, 55 pages), is not especially anthropomorphic although it does feature the older Lyra with her dæmon Pantalaimon in his fixed pine marten form, and a witch’s Arctic dæmon-bird, Ragi. But the second, Once Upon a Time in the North, should please most ’morph fans. It is a prequel, the story of how the young cowboy and balloonist Lee Scoresby with his hare dæmon Hester first came to Novy Odense and met Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn—the armored bear.
   Scoresby, a 24-year-old adventure-loving cowboy from Texas who won his hot-air balloon in a poker game six months earlier, has been traveling wherever the wind would take him, cheerfully working as an itinerant laborer for a few days or weeks at each stop. This adventure begins with a near-crash landing during a rainstorm at the Arctic island outpost of Novy Odense:

   “Well, Hester, looks like we’re getting the hang of this,” he said. His dæmon, who looked like a small sardonic jackrabbit, flicked her ears as she clambered out of the tangle of tools, cold-weather clothing, broken instruments, and rope. Everything was saturated.
   “My feelings are too deep to express, Lee,” she said
. (pg. 2)

   They first notice the unique aspect of this settlement when they go into town:

   The most interesting thing was the bears. The first time Lee saw one slouching casually out of an alley he could scarcely believe his eyes. Gigantic, ivory-furred, silent: the creature’s expression was impossible to read, but there was no mistaking the immense power in those limbs, those claws, that air of inhuman self-possession. There were more of them further into town, gathered in small groups at street corners, sleeping in alleyways, and occasionally working: pulling a cart, or lifting blocks of stone on a building site.
   The townspeople took no notice of them, except to avoid them on the pavement. They didn’t look at them either, Lee noticed.
   “They want to pretend they’re not there,” said Hester.
(pg. 5)

   The bears are the equivalent of the ‘civilized’ Indians in Old Western towns; considered to be shiftless drunkards as opposed to their Noble Savage brethren.
   Lee gets involved, against the advice of Hester, in local politics. Ivan Poliakov, a notorious but politically powerful scoundrel, is running for mayor on a virulent anti-bear platform. He tries to hire Lee for strongarm work, but Lee sees an old enemy, the mass-murderer-for-hire Pierre McConville, who is already on Poliakov’s payroll and refuses to have anything to do with him. Lee already feels sympathetic toward Captain van Breda, whose ship and cargo of mining equipment Poliakov is about to seize by blatantly fraudulent means, so he volunteers to help the Captain. This brings the bear Iorek Byrnison forward:

   [Lee] was about to turn towards the Harbour Master’s office when he had a surprise. The bear by the bollard stood up, turned to them, and said:
   He was looking directly at Lee. His voice was profound. Lee felt himself startled witless for a moment, and then gathered himself and crossed the road to the waterside. Hester stayed very close to his feet, and Lee picked her up.
   “You want me?” Lee said.
(pg. 50)

   Iorek is aware that Poliakov, the bears’ enemy, is also van Breda’s enemy, so if Lee is helping van Breda, the bear will help them as their backup. Events quickly move toward a traditional Old West shootout between Lee and the other side’s gunmen:

   Every separate sound was bright and clear, and Lee and Hester both heard the little click at the same moment. It was the sound of a revolver being cocked, and it came from up ahead, Lee thought; but Hester’s ears could pinpoint an ant on a blade of grass, and she said at once, “Second man, Lee.” (pg. 57)

   The final third of the book features a tense stalk through a warehouse between Lee and McConville, as well as between Hester and McConville’s rattlesnake dæmon; and a getaway by Lee and Iorek that you know will lead to, as Bogart said to Rains at the end of Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
   As with Lyra’s Oxford, this mini-book includes several pages of ‘memorabilia’ in the form of pseudo-newspaper clippings, a bill of lading, an almanac entry on Novy Odense, and correspondence; plus a removable foldout board game, Peril of the Pole, in a back pocket. Once Upon a Time in the North is meant for fans of The Golden Compass (especially for young adolescent fans, judging by the board game), but it stands very well upon its own as a short novel for all ages.

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Cover of Item 2
Title: Faradawn (The Fog Mound, Book 2)
Author: Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Illustrator: Jon Buller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (NYC), Sep 2007
ISBN: 0-689-87686-6
Hardcover, [3 +] 195 [+ 1] pages, USD $15.99

Cover of Item 2

Title: Simon’s Dream (The Fog Mound, Book 3)
Author: Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Illustrator: Jon Buller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (NYC), May 2008
ISBN: 0-689-87688-2
Hardcover, [3 +] 198 pages, USD $16.99

   Faradawn, Book 2 of The Fog Mound trilogy, proves the old adage about the middle volumes of trilogies being generally the weakest of the three. Travels of Thelonious, the first novel (May 2006; reviewed in Anthro #13), set up the basic plot and the mystery, and introduced the characters. Book 2 is essentially More Of The Same. The plot advances somewhat, minor subplots are resolved and the cast changes slightly, but everyone knows that the story is mostly just marking time until Book 3 appears with the main answers and the resolution.
   Travels of Thelonious presents Thelonious Chipmunk (the narrator), Fitzgerald Porcupine, Olive Bear, and Brown Lizard as talking animals in a future world of ruins. They are trying to discover what killed all the humans off, what made some animals intelligent and gave them thumbs and fingers, and whether the unknown doom threatens the intelligent animals who have replaced humanity. The quartet escapes from the City of Ruins ruled by the reptilian criminal boss Dragon Lady and finds the utopian animal community atop a mountain plateau above the deadly Fog Mound. However, after several months of rest and relaxation, they are ready to resume their quest.
   Faradawn begins with the four animal friends setting out from the Fog Mound, joined by Cluid Chipmunk, Thelonious’ new girlfriend, and Bill the Human, the mysterious scientist who has lived for centuries in suspended animation but who has shrunk to chipmunk size as a result, and has total amnesia except for the name of a distant island, Faradawn. Bill is accepted into the explorers despite the suspicions of Fitzgerald, who does not trust any humans, even tiny ones:

   “There’s that place called Faradawn that Bill mentioned,” I said. “We could go there, too!”
   “Bill!” Fitzgerald snorted. “I wouldn’t pay any attention to anything Bill says. I never heard about any place called Faradawn.”
   “I still don’t see what you’ve got against Bill,” I said.
   “I like humans fine, where they belong—in the past! I just don’t want to share the planet with them! The humans kept animals as pets, you know, and they experimented on them too. You should know that, Thelonious, from that legend you like so much, the one where Bob Human saves the animals from the mad scientist.”
(pgs. 24-25)

   The six questers, in a pontoon boat designed by Bill, sail down the river that goes by the base of the Fog Mound. They pass through Thelonious’ old home in the Untamed Forest where he reassures his family that he is well, skirt the City of Ruins which has fallen into violent anarchy, and enter unknown territory in their search for the southern island of Faradawn. The explorers become involved in a war between the peaceful bird inhabitants of Faradawn and an invading army of evil crabs. There is a menacing monster to be fought and unexpected allies who come to the rescue. At the end the questers have learned the secret of Faradawn; but the big questions of what destroyed the humans centuries earlier and, more importantly, whether some animals may be starting to make some of the same mistakes, are still unanswered.
   Faradawn, by the married team of Susan Schade (writer) and Jon Buller (cartoonist), follows the same format as Book 1: the odd-numbered chapters are presented in comic-book form, and the even-numbered chapters look like a traditional textual novel although with lots of illustrations. The main difference between Travels of Thelonious and Faradawn is that the art in the former is tinted a pale blue, whereas in the latter it is green.
   Simon’s Dream, with the art tinted violet, seems faster paced then the first two books. The animal friends are led to the ruins of an old scientific institute where the ‘Smalls’ (the chipmunks, Brown Lizard, and Bill Human) are separated from the larger animals. They meet Upsilon the Wolfman, a result of genetic experimentation who should appeal to fans of anthropomorphic rather than just talking animals. After several chases and escapes, they learn of the great battle between the evil crabs and the ratminks over the City of Ruins, and have to stop the Dragon Lady and her remaining ratminks from invading the Fog Mound. Bill regains his memory and speech, and a helmet that projects thoughts puts Thelonious in contact with Simon, the first talking chipmunk who answers all questions about what happened to the humans in the past. All the animal friends are reunited atop the Fog Mound, where the story ends satisfactorily.
   The trilogy is recommended for the 8 to 12 age group, but is rich enough in colorful detail, fast pacing, simplistic science fiction, and action that older readers will enjoy it also.

Francis Felicia and the Border Collie Patrol
Faradawn & Simon’s Dream Eulalia!
Dragon Outcast Once Upon a Time in the North

Anthropomorphic books for review should be sent to Fred Patten, at:
Golden State Colonial Convalescent Hospital, 10830 Oxnard Street, North Hollywood, CA, 91606

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