I may start sharing my book reviews on here. I don’t read much, but I try to make sure I review every book I’ve read, if only for the author’s sake. Just to let you know, I tend to read a lot of anthropomorphic fiction, which is a very niche market.
And now, on to the review.
Finally got around to reading this after wanting to do so for so long. What attracted me to this book in particular was 1) it’s a novella, which I’ve never read one before, 2) the protagonist and his culture were bats, and I don’t find many published furry literature that featured bats, and 3) the synopsis. It did not disappoint, plus I found I got more than what I’ve bargained for. At first, I thought this would be a love story between two people of polar opposite backgrounds, which would be set in a fantasy world. It ended up being that, sort of, but much, much more.
The world-building gave the story that fantasy vibe. The bats (Upper Kingdoms) had beautiful homes and structures created with magic in the upper parts of the trees; the Lower Kingdoms had rugged homes, shops, walkways, and rope ladders built within and among the roots and lower trunks of the trees. This also helped with the class/racial divide between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. You have the lower class (non-bat people) who typically have to walk, swim, climb, or use boats to get anywhere, and are just trying to get by; then you have the upper class (bat people) who can fly and use magic, and don’t seem to care if they accidentally drop valuable items into the seawater below.
Of course, just based on the synopsis alone, Koa was forced into this lower class at a very young age. Me thinking this was just a love story, I thought the only reason Koa wanted to be among his kind was so he could be with his love, and that would be his only motive. As I read on, I found his desire to be among his own kind gave him a stronger motive to get himself in the Upper Kingdoms. I personally liked his desire to reconnect with his culture better than drunk love being his only drive; that bat he fell in love with was a good starting point, but I’m glad the author didn’t make that the main focus of the conflict. It’s that desire to be with his people, despite having shredded wings and risk becoming a mockery, that made me want to keep reading and wanting Koa to reach that goal.
With me being a bit of a Biology nerd (and student), I have to comment on the unnatural habitat Koa had to adapt to growing up with the otters. He could climb, swim, and grip much better than normal bats, but every time he tried to fly when he used the spray-on potion, he would either awkwardly fly a little bit or crash and burn. Also, from what I could tell, it seemed like the bats preferred hanging upside down most of the time, especially during a social situation. I’ll be honest, the constant switch between hanging upside down and standing straight up during the Firefly Ball scene was a little confusing to follow at times. However, it made sense to include that natural aspect of bats if one were to create a culture of bat people or feature a bat character.
I didn’t know this would have inner illustrations in the book too. I know these are included in some published furry lit that are not graphic novels, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about them; this is the first novel/novella I’ve read that has these. It’s interesting and cool to see an artist’s interpretation of certain scenes within the story, and they help break up the text a little bit and give you some nice visuals. However, I’d rather not have these for one reason: they can ruin the reader’s own interpretation of the world and characters. This is what I like about fiction, especially for something set in a fantastical or futuristic world with non-human characters. One reader’s interpretation can be similar to another reader’s at a base level, but both could come up with finer details that may be completely different. I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone with this; I simply wasn’t expecting inner illustrations. I know some people enjoy these and I know some publishers and authors want to include these in their work; that’s perfectly fine, I enjoy them too, but to an extent.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a fantasy story that reads a bit like a fairytale, or if you’re looking for something short but don’t want to pick up an anthology, give this a read. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it has well-built characters and cultures…and it has bats, who I swear don’t get enough attention in furry lit, as far as I know.