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Imperium Lupi, by Adam Browne – Book Review by Fred Patten


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Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51tUZH2oOML._SY346_.jpg?resize=239%2C325Imperium Lupi, by Adam Browne. Illustrations, maps by the author.
Kent, England, U.K., Dayfly Publications, July 2017, trade paperback, £15.99, $20.99 (724 pages), Kindle £3.99, $5.99.

The book starts off with three complex full-page maps and several insignia. One map is of the walled city of Lupa, captioned “The capital of Wolfkind”. The insignia are of such things as “Buttle Skyways”, showing a dirigible, and “Lupan Laws”, the seal of the Lupan Republic’s government. There is also a ten-page lexicon at the rear of the book of terms used in the novel, such as:

Chakaa: The hyena answer to the Howlers, they are forbidden to use white-imperium by their beliefs, but unlike wolves they cope well with the psychotic side effects of purple-imperium. Even so, Chakaa are often unstable and are sidelined by the exacting standards set by noble-born hyena society, and only tolerated at all for their great strength and usefulness in battle.

The Politzi: Lupa’s police force, consisting largely of hogs, rats, rabbits and other lesser beasts who are for the most part unable to wield imperium directly.

Queens Town: Cat colony on the east coast, independent of Lupine Law. It was allowed to remain sovereign Felician territory as part of an ancient peace settlement between Felicia and Lupa. It is the first port of entry for any cats, or other beasts, coming to the Lupine Continent from across the Teich.

Imperium Lupi is set on the world of Erde. The first character that the reader meets in Part 1, Chapter 1 is Howler Rufus, a red-furred wolf, on a train:

“The pain subsiding, Rufus leant back into his seat, chest heaving beneath his cloak. He glanced around the dilapidated carriage; his fellow passengers diverted their curious gaze or hid behind newspapers. Little beasts mostly, mice, rats, rabbits, all the lesser races, who wouldn’t dare speak to Rufus without being spoken to.

The train slowed and the station panned into view, its fine marbled columns standing proud, each tarnished by the faintly spangled lustre of imperium ash. Rufus reached over and grabbed his helmet from the adjoining threadbare seat. He placed it over his brow; the padded metal hugging his sleek wolfen skull. It was black, save for the cheeks, which were white. Luminous red triangles were set beneath each eye-hole, like that found on Rufus’ brooch. Made of the wonder mineral imperium, they glowed even in the muted daylight, and against the helm’s white cheeks they resembled two bloodied fangs lying atop freshly fallen snow. The helm’s nose was covered by a grille punctured by a dozen round holes that enabled Rufus to breathe. Only his inquisitive green eyes and perky red ears remained visible, endowing him with menacing anonymity.” (p. 25)

The minutiae of this civilization are described in fine detail. It would be easy for a cosplayer to make the costumes, or for a model-builder to craft the vehicles and devices:

“At the bottom of the sprawling stairs, Ivan peeled away from Rufus, keys jangling in paw, and found his monobike parked by the road – and a fine machine it was, too, its large, singular wheel housed seamlessly under a chunky, polished black chassis marked on the flank with a small white spider motif.

Brushing globules of rainwater from the seat, Ivan threw an armoured leg over his marvellous bike, inserted the keys, and started it up with a kick of the pedal. Amidst a loud bang and several ear-thumping pops, imperium ash exploded forth from the exhaust in grey, yet slightly glittery clouds. The inside rim of the bike’s lone, broad wheel nestled between Ivan’s legs lit up in a bright ring of white as the imperium-laced gyroscope came to life. The bike rose up a little and righted itself, like a metallic beetle awakening from hibernation.” (p. 28)

It takes an age for the plot to get moving, but the richness of the buildup is exquisite. Here is an important quote:

“‘The imperium in our bodies is what gives us Howlers power,’ the imperologist went on, enjoying his role as the wellspring of knowledge, ‘but there’s a price. Whenever it’s burnt, whether it be in a car, a train, or our muscles, imperium of all colours decays into imperium ash. It’s bad enough when it clogs Lupa’s air, but when it fouls our bodies up it causes great pain…it’s well you know.’

Bruno gulped audibly.” (pgs. 35-36)

There is also drama:

“A flash of light and puff of ash burst from the pistol’s end. A fraction later and a colourful spark dashed off the leading monobike’s one wheel. The tyre exploded and tore itself apart in an instant.

The assassin’s monobike shuddered and twisted violently to one side, before catapulting itself seat over wheel and flinging the rider in front. He sailed through the air and disappeared amidst the carnage as his machine slid along the cobbles, shedding a shower of sparks and pieces of chrome bodywork all the way, before smashing into a heap of rubbish piled against the end of the alleyway.” (p. 41)

Here is more detail:

“Uther danced over to his locker and turned the dial on the combination lock, all the while flicking his tail and jigging his legs like some cabaret star. He removed his helmet like a hat, twirling it deftly over one paw and into the darkness of the locker, whereupon the red-imperium fangs slowly lost their lustre. Uther’s whole helmet was fortified with imperium not just the fang decoration, his leg armour too. The metal comprising Howler armour was known as eisenglanz, an alloy of steel and, of all things, imperium ash. Eisenglanz was not only physically tough, but the ash melded within the steel acted as an insulator and helped diminish the burning plasmatic attacks Howlers could inflict on one another. The ash gave naked eisenglanz a distinctive grey sheen, like pencil-lead.” (p. 66)

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There are many major characters in Imperium Lupi. Some of the most important are the wolf Howler officers Rufus Valerio and Ivan Donskoy, Troopers veteran Uther “Wild-heart” (orphan; family name unknown) and young Linus Mills (all Bloodfangs); Rufus’ politically well-connected wife Janoah Valerio; the effete Felician aristocrats Montague and Penelope Buttle who keep appearing or being referred to; the Hyena terrorist Prince Noss and The Hyena Organisation for Recognition of Nationhood (THORN); the rabbit tavern cook Casimir Claybourne; and Casimir’s adopted son, the mysterious wolf pup Bruno Claybourne, and his wolfess girlfriend Sara Hummel.

The highly convoluted plot revolves around the Lupan Republic’s dominance of the Lupine Continent on the world of Erde. There are schemes within Lupa’s elite wolf government to turn the Republic into an Empire; there are schemes by some of the other animal peoples within Lupa for their own independent nations; there are fears around Erde that Lupa’s dependence on the powerful but ultimately deadly imperium (Lupa city is perpetually under “the choking clouds of the Ashfall”) is slowly poisoning the entire world, and schemes by some to get rid of imperium by ending Lupa’s dominance; and there are schemes by some who just want to end wolfkind’s rule.

Imperium Lupi (cover by Mike Nash) is a rich mixture of action, comedy, mystery, tragedy, political intrigue at the highest levels, and sentient bugs, among the animal peoples of the world of Erde. The wolves dominate, but there is plenty here for the fans of rabbits, pigs, hyenas, otters, and others. Imperium Lupi is proof that not all of the best furry literature is being produced within furry fandom.

Fred Patten

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