by Angela Romano, futuristic (2009)
Dreamspinner Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-935192-88-6
Mourning Doves is an anthropomorphic futuristic romance, which is to say, it features animals given humanoid forms and even aspects of human behavior. Or is it the other way around? Think Thundercats. In this one, we are in the future when humans or animals or whatever have been "mutated" into anthromorphs. Called "Kins", these folks live alongside humans. The good guys are the TASK - and no, I'm never told what the letters stand for; maybe The Anthromorphs are So Kawaii? - while the Hunters are the bad guys who want to destroy everything and everybody.
In this story, we have 18-year old Leander Kale who is the leader of his TASK group. Apart from bearing multiple body piercings, scars, and a tail (eee, so kawaii), our fox Kin hero shows little leadership ability here to convince me that he's a leader at such a young age. Maybe the veteran TASK officers are all on leave to attend the Anthrocon in Pittsburgh. His partner is the more broody Epsilon Maddox, a cat Kin who can actually shift into cat form. There are other people in the TASK group, but the author breaks the fourth wall in the first paragraph of the story by informing me of the fates of these characters. Maybe she's warning me in advance that these characters will exist in the story just to chew scenery and take up space, because that is exactly what those characters end up doing here.
Leander and his buddies learn that someone in TASK is leaking information to the Hunters. It is up to them to save TASK and everyone else from the evil Hunters' destructive tendencies. But first, Leander and Epsilon will have to stop bickering like little children, which is what happens when you put emo brats in charge of saving the world. They are also supposed to be attracted to each other, as I'm led to believe when I open this book to read, but I'm hard pressed to see the spark of attraction between these two bickering kids. Oh, and I have better warn you guys: these two don't get down to business here. The author wants to develop their relationship over several books, if the ending of this book is anything to go by, so there is no happily ever after between those two here.
I'm not sure who the target audience of this book is supposed to be, because the young age of the main characters have me wondering for a while that Mourning Doves is a story written for furry-obsessed teenagers. Perhaps that will explain the juvenile bratty antics of the main characters in this story. At any rate, even if this story is meant for kids still wearing training furry diapers, it is still a tough book to slough my way through. The prose is very disjointed, with scenes getting cut off haphazardly here and there. The author loves to dump background details of the world onto the reader in a boring textbook style, but more often than not, these details are rarely necessary to the plot. On the other hand, crucial information that will be useful in appreciating the story is left out.
There are too many characters taking up space in this story, doing little to add to the story. There are also too many conversations and rambling internal monologues that rehash details that I have read only a few pages ago. In addition, the author's tendency to break the fourth wall by letting her readers know in advance what will happen in the story serves to cripple the suspense. A good writer can use this technique to give his or her story a special flair, but Ms Romano isn't that good a writer by this point. As a result of her use of that technique, her characters come off like fools for not noticing the clues that the author has inserted and alerted the reader to. And then we have fun lapses in logic such as when the characters shift back to humanoid form after a jaunt in their animal form, they magically get to have their clothes reappear on their bodies along with things like cell phones.
Mourning Doves is a very problematic book due to the large numbers of technical problems in the writing. I'm hoping that this would be an interesting introduction to the anthropomorphic fiction genre that is currently still under the radar of most people, but I only end up walking away with a headache.
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