There has been a video game and a selection of TV episodes to make me think. Books may have been the first entertainment to do that. The books to make me think is the “Red Lantern” series, including its spinoffs “Heretic”, “Legacy”, and “Off the Beaten Path”, which are the works of Rukis Croax, who is famous in the Furry community, now famous with me. She has been in progression for a good few years, and is still progressing as I type this. What can I say about these books? This had to be years in the planning: the world building, the character creations, the plots and sub-plots is all profound. It doesn’t just depress you or rile you up. It could be just me and my sensitivity, but I feel for the characters.
It’s all old-fashioned, made to be like a time in history. Regardless of time, the world has always been, and is now, a lawless place. There are those who actually try to get away with horrible things. When a community is dominated by crime families and you’re with them against your will, you have no life. Poor people have always been taken advantage of, paying taxes that they can’t afford whereas the nobles get off free. A typical day at that time, so I have the impression: you sell your belongings to be able to afford breakfast, you work at a place with superiors not caring about the hazards, earn your pay, buy back your belongings along with dinner, and then go home. When you pay the rent, you have to go hungry for a few days. When becoming of age, you’re betrothed to a complete stranger, and you’re forced to conceive a child with them so your parents won’t harass you about it, even if you hate your spouse. Those poor people had dreams, only to see them unfulfilled. They knew they couldn’t win. They knew they asked for the impossible.
Kadar, the protagonist of “Legacy”, lives just like that. His narration explains how he grew up with just his parents, working a kiln, his father wasting their gold getting drunk and attacking both Kadar and his mother, and married off to the one other known female jackal, who despised her. He grows up to become a slave. Another part of poor people that’s taken advantage of is that they didn’t know how to read. Only a select few could read. So, Kadar, when made a slave, is tricked with a contract that he couldn’t understand, and is forced to do labour. He’s among the many involved in the harvest of poppies. He takes beatings and gets in fights. There’s a moment of him being taken advantage of again, being drugged, tied up, and raped.
What really got to me, is his possible fate. I thought that the story ends on a cliffhanger, and even though Kadar narrates, I kept thinking, “Kadar is dead.” He never gets to see his son again, he dies with the collar marking his enslavement on him, and his dreams are stolen from him for good. So I think. I would imagine Kadar laying still on a field, his throat slit, having fought back, but not hard enough. I even tried drawing that, and then attempted him hunching over from being stabbed in the chest, only to tell myself, “I can’t do this.” It’s because I questioned my drawing skills, and not because it means risking facing Rukis’s fury.
This kind of example is shown again, revolving around a tribe, a bobcat with adventure on her mind. To unite with another tribe, she was married off to someone she hated, and he abused and raped her. There comes an example of hypocrisy in resolving the issue of her son. He’s born visually impaired, and deemed cursed by the tribe. The tribe members throw stones at both the bobcat and her newborn kitten. Again, because of that time, a tribe or clan can’t afford to have weakness. However, she is deemed cursed, and that tribe is a terrible as her husband. She’s left for dead, but she gets saved by a pair of travellers. She comes to vow revenge for her son, and renames herself Shivah.
She doesn’t just seek her husband; she seeks those that he joined, as there turns out to be more than just her vendetta. The two vagabonds that she stays with are a coyote named Ransom and an arctic fox named Puquanah (also answers to Puck), Ransom being a hunter, and Puck being a healer.
Shivah empathizes with Puck as he too is visually impaired, but his senses are greatly keener. He explains to her how he tried for years to cure his loss of vision, which led to his study in shamanism. Knowing that the spirits to whom he prayed didn’t heed him, he stopped believing in spirits, which led to his study in real medicine. The tribal marks on him mean nothing to him. Ransom is a much harder shell to crack, which makes her wonder why they still travel together. After learning of their sexual relationship, she wonders if it’s an abusive relationship, Puck trying to make Ransom a better man. Ransom explains that he is of a tribal heritage as well, but his father abandoned it. Ransom learned much more through his cousin named Dominic until something came out wrong. Dominic was close to him, but too close, and was the one to give Ransom the scar on his muzzle for which he’s recognized. There is another case on what leads to his explanation, but that’s for later.
When one is bullied throughout school, when one is under a parent’s sense of tyranny, when a girl happening to reveal too much skin is frequently called a slut, when one hears the words they hate to hear, trust is hard to come by, and the smart kids needing help in some way feels like they don’t belong in the one room in the school that’s supposed to be like a safe haven. You’d wonder if anyone even likes you, and there’s this wall built up. From being pushed to the edge one too many times, one wouldn’t believe until too late that they become the thing they hate. Letting go is hard. Memories for grudges just cling like a sloth to a tree.
One great character from “Red Lantern” is the admiral of the Cerberus fleet, Luther Denholme. That wasn’t always his surname. In the spinoff “Heretic”, he tells the reader that he was poor. It was just him and his father, who would beat him. Luther eventually ran away from home, and trained to be a soldier, but for the unfair conditions, he fled. His time as a sailor, he was under the lead of a wolf named Klaus Richter, with whom he grew a special bond. He heard Klaus say with his dying breath as their ship was attacked, “I’ve always loved you.”
Luther was arrested and beaten, waiting to be executed for loving a man. For that, he was dubbed Heretic. That’s another example of religious people being hypocrites. They try to make everyone pure and perfect, and for that, are willing to kill people. If someone in history made it their life’s work to hunt down and kill same-sex lovers, chances are that we’d have an organized genocide in our history books.
There is an offer that he doesn’t refuse, marrying a woman and being given controls of her father’s fleet. However, it’s not so easy. One twist is that the children she carries are children of rape. This aspect might be ahead of the time: the idea to sue. It was a case of her word against her attacker’s. Furthermore, her father, Lucius, has invested his fortunes in the fleet, and couldn’t hold for long, and the family wanting it has more money. If judged by the church, there was a chance that the rapist, Irving, would be punished, but Delilah’s children would be considered monsters. Luther kills Irving after challenging him to a duel, which is with pistols, but it shows that there are too many fights that you can’t win.
Luther’s loyalty to Delilah as well as Lucius is challenged due to the times of Luther courting a guest, Mikhail, who turns out to be a prostitute. Luther actually finds a father figure in Lucius, who wants both Luther and Delilah to have the best. Luther does love Delilah, and not just care about her, and he wants to be the father that her children deserve, but he doubts that he can be true to the wedding vows. That leads to the case of Johannes, a wolfhound, an Archbishop and good friend to Lucius.
Johannes was a naval dog, like the others, but he had problems at home. He points out a time he reflexively flipped his son after catching him by surprise. He reveals to Shivah in “Off the Beaten Path” that he’s lied about his wife being alive to Luther. He tells about the times in the navy, coming to him as nightmares, which endangered his wife. He ended up impregnating her a fourth time, and couldn’t bear to terminate it after being told about a drug that could do it. She died delivering that fourth child, but Johannes blames himself for killing her. What he describes is a perfect example of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which, for all intents and purposes, didn’t exist at that time. There was no way of dealing with any form of anxiety or depression.
Another problem then, is the social class. If you were poor, you were a nobody. If you were a blue blood, you were somebody. There is truth in saying that the wealthy had their noses up and looking down upon the poor. They had the best education and the best lifestyles. The worst is that they think that they can get away with sexual assault, sexual harassment, or murder. The poor could just be arrested for speaking nonsense when it’s truth. Again, fights that one can’t win. Luther does care for the dining, but he questions the wardrobe and is disappointed that a decorative sword does nothing in a fight. He gets bothered by wearing a jacket over a waistcoat on a warm day, and considers the pajamas too restrictive. It’s like the logic that one factor has to be sacrificed for another.
There it is: the three spinoffs, and the issues that it tackles. Even now, the world is like what’s described in history, even with sexes and races being more equal in places than in others. It’s still a matter of fighting, no matter how it’s viewed, and these books portray such quite well. There are other books that can get to someone for long since buried memory, or simply out of sensitivity. These are the examples of conveying emotions and the mind.