The Chrysalis and the Creatures of the Highlands
by Bruce Rowe
Clarendon House Publications (avail on Amazon), $13.99 TPB, 314 pp
Published: May 2021
I believe this is the author’s debut novel; he’s written numerous short stories. I met him at an outdoor market as he was promoting this book. The cover art was intriguing and better than you typically see for an independently published work.
The story is told from the viewpoints of animals; primarily hares known as lagomorphs and dire wolves. There are no humans anywhere in the story. This story is a typical good vs. evil but entertaining, nonetheless. The lagomorphs and Dire Wolves are in conflict over resources; the wolves have depleted their food source and they are starving. In a balanced ecosystem, the prey and the predators maintain balance when the animals allow their instincts to guide them. With instinct to guide, the wolves chase the hares, who have a chance to elude. But in generations past, the wolves eschewed the traditional chase in favor of herding and cultivating their food source through slavery. They attacked and rounded up all the lagomorphs they could find and drove them to the pack’s cave. But their captive food source has begun to refuse to breed and the wolves are starving. The surviving lagomorphs retreated to a high ground trying to remain invisible to any marauding wolves; and their numbers increased. But they have been discovered…
The stars speak to the mystics among both races but the interpretation of a coming cataclysmic event is quite different. The wolves believe it presages their complete conquest of the lagomorphs and will give them an infinite food source. The lagomorphs believe the event signals a return to instincts and the advent of a gentler time with gentler creatures. Both species are already seeing the signs: some wolves are being born smaller with less intelligence, and some hares are birthing bunnies. The fear of the lagomorphs is that they will be overcome and destroyed before the coming Chrysalis. The lagomorphs are not helpless bunnies and are quite capable of killing a Dire Wolf but their numbers are few. But with the assistance of other species who also welcome a return to instinct; they just might have a chance of survival. Unfortunately, the wolves also have their allies and they are terrifying…
The book is a bit slow at the beginning so you just have to stick with it for the payoff. By the time I hit the middle, I was well-involved in the story. The characters were pretty well-defined and the plot was solid. The author does have a predilection for too many adjectives and slides into purple prose every so often but not enough to make it unpleasant. If he continues to work at this craft, he’s sure to improve and I’d look forward to new stories. ~~ Catherine Book