Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Forges of Dawn, by E. M. Kinsey
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, September 2014, trade paperback $18.50 ( + 480 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.
“In a world where lions evolved and man did not… An epic adventure begins” (blurb)
“The stories are focused around the felines of our world, but mostly around Lyons of Afriik. It takes place on an alternate world where humans have been hunted to extinction, allowing other animals to thrive and grow after they learn how to master and create fire.” (The Iron Lyons Wiki)
The Forges of Dawn, Book 1 of the “Iron Lyons” series, is the first novel in this series. But E. M. Kinsey has been developing the world of Afriik and its Lyons for a long time. Her Wiki cites both this novel and several other short stories and comic stories such as “Escape”, “Unbroken”, “The Lady of Snow”, “Vicious Circle”, and others. Some are published on DeviantArt, some on Patreon, and some are still unpublished. Her Patreon page describes the forthcoming The Road to Ruin: An Iron Lyons Novella Collection; three novellas still to be written.
Briefly, there are many tribes of Lyons in Afriik, but two main groupings; the Refugees including the deep red Barbari Lyons, spread across what would be North Africa in our world, and the Pale Ones, ruling most of the rest of the continent. (The southern tip of Afriik is the Hynar or hyena Territories.)
The Forges of Dawn begins with a Glossary and a six-page prologue in almost religious prose of the background of this novel. It’s important, but if you’re really interested, you can get that in greater depth on The Iron Lyons Wiki, described above. The protagonist is Uhuru (later Uru), the Red Queen of the deep red Barbari Lyons. The antagonists are the Pale Ones, white Lyons led by cruel Lord Vireka.
Chapter One wallows in bleakness and despair. The cruel Pale Ones are closing in on the last Lyon leaders, or rather the matriarchal Lyonesses. Their pregnant Red Queen, Mjane, sees her mate Sahibu sacrifice himself to temporarily draw their pursuers away. Realizing that the Pale Ones will never stop searching until they have her corpse, she gives birth to a son and then has her followers take the cub to safely while she remains behind to be slaughtered – or worse.
A century passes …
“A reddish blur moved across the grasses of the open plains, its shape gradually resolving into the form of a young Lyonesse coming into her full adulthood, her pelt done all over in a shade very much like that of blood. Her legs churned, pumping swiftly as she wove amongst the long golden blades around her, her breath coming in swift pants. She didn’t even slow for a partially rotted tree trunk that had fallen across the path she was taking; she simply leapt over it with a bunching of her powerful muscles and continued her run on the other side.” (p. 17)
“She was overgrown – too big for a Lyonesse, really – more like a male than a female in size, with large paws and more muscle than most of the boys she knew. She dwarfed most of them, now that she was settling into her full adult size, […]” (p. 18)
The Lyons and Lyonesses are four-legged, but not entirely unadorned:
“Her large paws ran over the gourds hanging around her throat, the water in one sloshing gently as it was jostled, and when she lifted it to sniff, she could tell the other still contained the couple strips of dried antelope she had stashed there. Check. Her right ear still had its bone piercing, and the bright blue feathers hadn’t come loose from their weavings in her thick neck fur. Check. Her light bark armor still held fast to the fronts of her legs, the plates still along her back. Check. And last, but not least, her grandfather’s loop of shiny swirled blue and white stones still clung to her left foreleg’s wrist. Check!” (p. 20)
I could spend pages quoting EMK’s detailed descriptions of each Lyon and Pale One. The Forges of Dawn is a rich and colorful novel.
The Lyonesse described above is Uhuru, the oldest child of their pride leader, Hotio. She is considered large and clumsy for a girl. Since she is only a girl, her father intends to marry her off and forget about her. The story is a little too obviously an adventure about a strong female refusing to conform to her pride’s male-centric traditions, overcoming all obstacles, and rising to leadership. But EMK never lets the message get in the way of a rousing story!
Those obstacles are often violent and bloody. These are Lyons:
“The great Pale One screeched as she sank teeth into the side of his head, sharp molars grinding into his ear while she reached around to his face with her frontal claws, and although they slid along the metal of his mask, one did manage to slip into the slits for his eyes. Uhuru took great satisfaction in the feeling of a single claw piercing that condescending and smug orb.” (pgs. 106-107)
And this hasn’t even reached the part in The Forges of Dawn (cover by Sophie “Wilhuna” Danko) where Uhuru becomes Uru. You won’t believe what happens! There are sentient raptors, evil magic that makes the user invisible (but not undetectable for a Lyonesse with a strong sense of scent), metal armor for the Pale Ones’ guards, silverback gorilla (Gora) forgemasters, and above all the seemingly all-powerful, all-evil Lord Vireka, who considers himself to be the ultimate god of all Lyons – all before the Tigrisians and the pirates enter the saga. As the blurb says:
“From the shores of the only land she has ever known to the steps of faraway empires and back again, Uhuru will face pirates, monsters, and heart-breaking loss to finally learn the greatest lesson of all: heroes are never really born. Like any weapon…HEROES MUST BE FORGED”
Be aware that “‘… the story is far from over yet.’” (p. 478) Wilhuna’s covers for the unfinished (but which are being written Even As We Speak) The Thousand Winters, Book 2 of the Iron Lyons saga, and The Road to Ruin, are already painted.