Review by Rakuen Growlithe
Rise of the Patcheé is a self-published collection of three short stories by Eben Prentzler. The three stories are "Part 1 - The Scavenger Wars," "Part 2 - The Scribe’s Crystal" and "Part 3 - Touch of the Firstborn." They are all set in a fantasy world established in his earlier novel, Chronicles of Solo - Moments Away, and revolve around Mother, the title given to the leader of a Patcheé (African wild dog) pack.
When reviewing, or writing in general, it is good practice to keep your audience in mind. I see reviewing as generally having three potential audiences and functions: giving feedback to the author of a piece in order to help him improve, using a piece as an example to teach others what they should or should not do, and providing information to potential readers so that they can judge whether a piece is suitable for them. I feel that, in the furry fandom, all three of these functions overlap: authors are likely to read reviews by other furs, potential readers read the reviews and, with the fandom focused on creation, many of those readers are themselves aspiring authors. As such, I will talk about what does and does not work in this collection and why.
The biggest problem with the Rise of the Patcheé is that, as a self-published book, it has not been looked over by an editor or a professional proofreader. The entire book is plagued by missing commas, incorrect words, mixed up pronouns, and other issues that a proofreader would catch. Perhaps most noticeably, there is a paragraph in Part 3 where the focal character's name is misspelled nine out of 12 times! Interestingly, the "correct" spelling is not even consistent; the first half of the story spells it using the character "é" while the second half uses "è."
An editor might also push for many aspects of the story to be expanded. Part 1 is undoubtedly too short for everything that is supposed to happen. There are too many characters, too many locations and too much intrigue that there isn't space for characterisation or motivations. Throughout the book, we are constantly told what characters feel but never shown those feelings or allowed to discover them ourselves. For example, when one character sees another killed at the end of Part 2, we read that "She has grown to like the tough little apprentice, and now she had to see her die." This will be news to the reader as the two characters had essentially no one-on-one conversations and had never displayed any particular affection. A single scene earlier in the story could have established that affection and allowed an emotional connection.
Eben is certainly capable of writing good characters. Part 3 was undoubtedly the best of the three stories and that's largely due to focusing on the interaction between just two characters. There are more things that happen but we start with just the two characters and space is given to develop them and their individual personalities. It is great! This is the first time that it doesn't feel like the characters are merely doing what the plot demands but that they are doing something because of who they are! When we get to know the characters, we care about them and it allows the scenes to have a far greater emotional impact.
One of the biggest strengths of the book is that the world is interesting. In this world, we see three different societies – Patcheé (African wild dogs), Scavengers (hyenas) and Pridekeepers (lions) – all of are structured differently. The most unusual being those of the Patcheé, a species which also possess many magical abilities, including changing their appearance. Seeing these new societies and magics is fascinating and Part 2 and Part 3 go into the most detail on Patcheé magic.
While mostly existing in a familiar fantasy world, the book has some cool new ideas that would be worth exploring but fails to give the characters and story time to fully develop. It's then further let down by constant language errors which are common enough to detract from the storytelling itself. While I cannot fully recommend the book, I will say that Part 3 deserves a read. It has some of the same flaws as the earlier parts but the characters come alive and drive the story forward. It has unexpected twists, genuine emotion and explores the unusual magic and society of the Patcheé.