Friday, June 11, 2021

Imperium Lupi

 Imperium Lupi

This standalone digital doorstopper by Adam Browne occurs in a steampunk world occupied by anthropomorphic animals, starting twelve years before its “present” with a rainstorm in the city of Lupa, where Werner the hog seeks Casimir the white rabbit, disease-afflicted wolf warriors known as Howlers on the move. A lupine cub named Bruno, his mother deceased, is found, and both the hog and rabbit take him to headquarters, the latter adopting him as his son. When the novel’s present arrives, the red wolf Rufus yearns for the countryside away from the polluted city of Lupa, interacting with his fellow Howler, the white wolf Ivan.

Ivan enters a restaurant known as The Warren, owned by Casimir, seeking Bruno and food on the way to headquarters. Ivan’s family, the Donskoys, had originated on the Great Steppes, a northern tundra of seasonal extremes. A key plot point is that hyenas receive treatment as second-class citizens and must live on reservations, with a magical terrorist attack perpetuated by one coming on the café. Ivan pursues the culprit, losing use of his monobike and briefly having to follow on foot, although he does get another from a ginger cat, Montague “Monty” Buttle, with the pursuit eventually occurring on a train.

The terrorist turns out to be the Chakaa hyena Prince Noss of the Jua-mata Tribe, and ultimately falls into the captivity of the Howlers. At headquarters, Grand Howler Vladimir Bloodfang Oromov calls out Ivan for stopping at the café, and another of the Howlers, the stocky Linus, for putting feline dignitaries such as the aforementioned Monty in danger. Meanwhile, two she-wolves, Sara and Olivia, care for a bee named Toggle, and worry for Bruno, who has been gone for weeks. The adopted son of Casimir ultimately gets into a brawl leading to his arrest, given his performance of a capital offense.

Noss, who comes down with the rot that mostly plagues male wolves, receives a sentence to the penal colony of Gelb, and Linus pursues a regal hog named Gustav who pinches the purse of his female companion Rosalina. Meanwhile, Casimir meets Sara in her flat and indicates that Bruno has come down with the rot, the country’s media “officially” stating that certain figures are deceased. Prince Noss proves resilient to torture, and talk also emerges of the potential restoration of lupine monarchy, with the Agency for Lupan Peace and Howler Accountability (ALPHA) keeping order.

The book contains interludes that provide looks into its various mythos, with the first being a codex about the Bloodfang pack of wolves, among the few able to have a record predating the Founders, Lupa, and the rot, with the chemical imperium then being a curiosity. There are also diary excerpts from the Howler Linus Bloodfang Mills, who initially tells of his fellow Howler Uther’s birthday. Further present are brief passages known as “blicks,” the first of which follows Rafe’s induction into ALPHA, although clear indicators such as their respective periods of occurrence would have been welcome.

The second part of the novel opens with Linus and Uther dealing with a hostage situation instigated by rogue hyenas unwilling to cooperate, with the porcine Politzi Constable Werner Schwartz volunteering to parley with the Chakaa. Uther finds himself captive of the hyenas, whose respective group THORN (The Hyena Organization for Recognition of Nationhood) raids a refinery. Rufus Bloodfang becomes a sympathizer of the hyenas, and Linus attends an academic meeting known as the Arkady Symposium. Rufus himself ultimately receives the accusation of smuggling white-imperium and receives a sentence to labor in Gelb.

The third subsection opens with Linus receiving instruction of how to ride a monobike, the wolf providing his backstory on how he caught the rot in the first place. At this time, the Chakaa are amassing a sizeable quantity of black-imperium to execute another terrorist attack, with Rufus becoming chummy with one of them, Madou. Rufus finds himself changing hands regularly in terms of captivity, with occasional scenes such as a battle against larger-than-average spiders, a trait shared by other bugs in the novel such as centipedes. Falsified death also continues to play part in the story’s key events.

The fourth part follows the endangerment of Den Father Vito, not to mention Rufus’ continued affiliation with the hyenas incarcerated at Gelb, making their escape. The final section involves the formulation of a terrorist plot by THORN to dump black-imperium on a city to poison and kill its population through use of an airship piloted by the feline Buttles, and plentiful action erupts and culminates in a satisfying conclusion, with a few twists in the mix, and a diary entry by Linus indicating what happens after the primary events of the story.

All in all, while the book somewhat overstays its welcome, I found it to be a very satisfying read, one of the most definitive furry novels I read, and very much one of the much-better digital doorstoppers I’ve experienced throughout my life of reading and reviewing. There’s largely no issue with remembering the species of the various characters, with good descriptions that give them plentiful appearance and distinction, and the action contains superb development, with various twists throughout the narrative. The editing job is a bit inconsistent at times, but I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to those in search of a great standalone story, provided they have the time to experience it.

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