Review by Ivic Wulfe
On first glance at the well-decorated reindeer on the inside cover I knew I'd possibly be in for...well exactly what I'd signed up for when agreeing to do my first review of a more, risqué anthology in the genre of furry literature.
The 12 Days of Yiffmas, by title, leaves little to the imagination. A compilation of twelve winter holiday-inspired short stories with more raunch in them than a similarly named salad dressing. Accompanied by a soundtrack with an introduction done by Howl and 12 somewhat, campy Yiffmas carols to help you envelop yourself in the holiday cheer. Beyond that, there's also an accompanying art piece for every interaction to ensure your full immersion with a handy-dandy visual aid.
Every story is introduced by our narrator with Howl and guests and the antics they get up to every new story much like those little holiday specials they tend to love rerunning ad-infinitum and does add a new flavour to how one can approach this anthology. Beyond this, they also took the time to give certain trigger warnings where appropriate. I appreciated this. Especially with some of the topics that were covered in the anthology. With that said, let's delve right on in.
"A (Not yet) Merry Christmas" by White Claw. Illustrated by Tabaxitaxi
The story follows a surly dalmatian named David, who finds their scroogy, business-sona slowly being enamoured by the addition of the smallest amount of mint liquor and a few Christmas related movies (one horror) by our far more Christmas-inspired deer named Ollie.
An interesting lead-up into this smut inspired anthology. It ensures that we take some levity in our holiday-making in what is certainly one of the more clichéd entries. Our characters are easily identified, and it does end with a very Hallmark “we all learned something here folks” message, even when it's found in the midst of a satisfyingly written dog-on-deer “action” scene. Our characters are written into their roles well and with the raunchy conclusion and afterglow it reads like a Hallmark holiday special but for Porn-hub.
"Freyr's Game" by Faolan. Illustrated by Jakensitou
This story follows an anthro snake named Lysander, in the throes of winter's regret for their own species, who gets invited by their friend, a white goat named Christian, to try a new kind of party, a Yule celebration. (I only realized the irony of this as I wrote it.)
True to form it doesn't take long for the clothes to come off, the drink to flow and the festivities to be had. Multiple interspecies mingling in the menagerie, along with a ménage à trois somewhere in the mix.
Our characters are well-fleshed out, well-considered and very open to the possibilities of a Yule feast. There was no shying away from tradition nor the partaking of it. Solid premise and a solid execution. Especially when it came to the stranger bits of anatomical correctness.
"Where the Lovelight Gleams" by Colin Leighton. Illustrated by Faukx
Christmas aboard the USS O Riordan, 1943, near the Solomon Islands is where the next short story takes place. Enter the lone Ensign Grady Turner on watch at the helm. His captain, Robert Ferrandin, joins him for a quiet chat about what could be missed on these long nights at sea. What follows is one of the gems of this anthology with good pacing and narrative nous that sometimes gets lost in the creation of a short story focused on sexual exploits. However, my own bias for stories like Brokeback Mountain probably shines through here.
This story manages to find the niche that mixes both emotion as well as passion in a well-crafted package and delivers our characters from their situation fraught with danger to a place of peace and release. And maybe a bit of regret. Truth be told I got a bit emotional with this one. Wonderful piece of writing. I am truly hoping to see more from the writer.
"Do not Open Until Xmas" by Kuroko. Illustrated by Tabaxitaxi
An interesting premise, once again focusing on a more open and interesting relationship. Our main character, a red panda named Devon, is, thrust...or, will be thrusting, into the secret life of his partner, Isaac at a high-end house of pleasure. He's forced to make a few life-altering choices. Accept his lover's unconventional working environment or forever lose them because of his own initially prudish consternation.
Very intriguing use of some of the kinds of bits and bobs one would find being administered for the subservience of your partner. "Yule Carol" by Cedric G! Bacon. Illustrated by Stedilnik
Add this one to the “stories that made me tear up” pile. A vixen named Kyo from Japan had fallen in love with an American coyote named Heath who was taken too soon by fate. She finds a way be able to spend one night, Yule, with him again. Her preparations are meticulous so that she would be able to feel his embrace.
I honestly have so much to say about this and very few ways to hopefully do it justice. I guess maybe the idea that if “Full Metal Alchemist” had a way to do the ritual right in some sense.
Poignant, heartbreaking and possibly something I'd consider doing if I lost my soul-mate. Brilliant narration and brilliantly written. It's also the attention to detail in respect to cultural nuance that really helps me feel so engrossed with the story.
I'd need to mention that of the compositions, not only is Carol of the Bells one of my favourite Christmas songs (read only one I like), but the adaptation for this story was on point and added to that feeling of loss that this story brought.
"Ice Fishing with Nick" by Sisco Polaris. Illustrated by Boneitis
Brokeback Mountain thoughts come to mind again, this time with the more, “going on a fishing trip” vibe. Hot steamy and risqué all around. It makes for an interesting interaction between the two as some of the back story that our author provides makes for some really intriguing fan theory with Rudolph X Santa aficionados. Add in some Bojack-like devil-may-care attitude and you have a pretty solid solitary-cabin in the woods romp.
Our characters were written in a way that there's a certain focus on lore, who they'd probably have shacked up with and even the church gets a mention here with all their rules and restrictions.
Overall a fun little romp with a small unexpected twist near the end.
"Band Over" by Miles Reaver. Illustrated by Iudicium
“Rock Star” vibes to some extent from this story. Dropped in hot on the introduction to our protagonists Owen and Rick, one an asexual fox and the other a very sex-forward wolf. Let's just say, showing “the horns” in their opening scene may in fact be a little more than risqué...probably dangerous.
Owen is also family to the two foxes who made it big as part of the biggest openly gay rock band in this world. I am all for this story. All credit to our author for making this a believable part of the twincest trope. I feel bad for our co-protagonist, inasmuch as I feel these pangs of regret for my partner, but it has done a lot for hopefully bridging that gap.
There's a lot to unpack beyond the sexual nature of this story, and it does well to maintain both believability as well as interest in the side-plot. Big-ups for that. The climax of this story has an extremely well-considered point of view with both character progression as well as gently looking at the details from either side of the spectrum.
"Snow-Plowed" by Nathanial “LeCount” Edwards. Illustrated by Tabsley
With a very dark accompanying song and some major warnings in respect to dark thematic content, I found it difficult to read this. I assume that was the point. Our story follows a duel protagonist/antagonist perspective with a homophobic bully and his victim and the way their initial encounters set up their evening encounter.
The way the story juxtaposes the two encounters during this story and attempts to meld them together scene by scene is commendable. For the more dark parts I'm glad that most of these Freddy Krueger-esque nightmares only exist in dreams. I genuinely feel unnerved by the way this was written. Which in this case means that our author achieved their goal. The minor key rendition of the accompanying song, listened to after the reading, sent a couple of unsettling shivers down my spine. I need a topped-up glass of something strong after that. If you're into horror-themed juxtaposition, this is your go-to in the anthology.
"Family Comes First" by Ferric. Illustrated by Flowamai
What to do when you're a dragon in a world of mammals? Two brothers from different clutches, Tyler and Tony, meet over the holidays and times that they can go home to enjoy the comfort of each-other's embrace. This is an interesting story; it makes for some good plot points. Also seems somewhat Hallmark-y. However the interplay between the two of them and the slight jibes they give one another still seems believable and adds an interesting twist in the mix of their...machinations. A solid story for what it sets out to do.
"Thirty-Nine-and-a-Half-Foot Pole" by Thurston Howl. Illustrated by Erkhyan
Adaptation rules supreme as we follow our pro- er, antagonist The Bulf. Emphasis on capitalisation. He rides in with his...Reindeer? Jay and steals all the townsfolk's questionable Yiffmas toys! Oh no! Doubt that would stop them...
A titular look at a more yiffy variation on our tale of the Grinch. I will however voice my own displeasure of Thurston's criticism of the colour green. Beyond that, a fair retelling of the debauched nature of the furs from Furville. Seriously, feels like I walked into one of the adult MUCK rooms.
Special props to the song here as well!
"Jingle Hell" by Patrick D. Lambert. Illustrated by Joseph Chou
Speculative fiction, with the fear of Krampus. Horn dogs all around might enjoy this! Alphonse, our main character, a subservient rottweiler, finds himself visited by Krampus one quiet, near Christmas day. His offence? Numerous, one of which is unabatedly teasing his neighbour with his open curtain antics.
Very low-key, to-the-point short story and does a fair job in set-up and progression. It felt a bit disjointed in places but for its purpose the story served ably.
"Waggy" by TJ Minde. Illustrated by Iudicium
A holiday get away with a mixed furry x human couple. In Hayden our human and Wagner (aka Waggy). The two of them begin their journey of self-discovery and pup-play on this trip with every day being part of the learning curve.
There was a lot of information put into this particular short story in its emphasis on how pup play is engaged in. It spoke at length about how BDSM is a trust exercise and the characters brought that to light pretty faithfully.
This focus in and of itself lends very well to the overall feel of the story and for anyone curious in reading about what can be described as a first-hand emotion-driven narrative to full realisation in the topic (this without being coerced into it by RL questioning), this story does surprisingly well.
Our anthology wraps up with a short word from every author and artist involved and asks them for what kind of yiffy gifts they'd like for the holiday and helps bring a small bit of insight into every contributor.
While I had a few notes on some of the songs and the singers, I felt the album did go a long way to bring that cheesy Christmas spirit to full mast and was done competently both in composition as well as execution. The album is a bonus on buying the anthology itself and the premise of listening to each song after reading is a fun little immersion tool.
While every story and author had their positive points and achieved their varied goals, I'd like to point out that Colin Leighton, Cedric G! Bacon, Miles Reaver and TJ Minde's stories were personal favourites to me. Once again, this is due to my own personal bias and some might not see them the same way I saw in them.
Special thanks as always to Thurston for being our narrator on this trip and for the content warnings that were a nice touch especially when dealing with some of the topics the short stories did.