Review by Erdwolf_TVL
Witch-Hazel, by her own admission, isn’t very good at being a squirrel. In fact, one might argue that she is downright foolish. When lured into a dark underground labyrinth by an enigmatic snake - with questionable motives - she obliges! Thus begins a quest which sees her solving puzzles, fighting the undead, meeting Gods and fighting monsters as well as ghostly apparitions.
Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls is a Tarot-card based roleplaying game, created by Matthew Lowes. ShadowSpinners Press publishes books based on this fantasy universe. Mary E. Lowd, well known and well respected author within the furry fandom, gives this world the talking animal treatment.
On entering the snake’s labyrinth, Witch-Hazel is at first claustrophobic and confused. She does, however, press on with her quest and gradually starts to appreciate the deceptive nature of this netherworld that doesn’t always play by the rules. Environmental hazards, high-stakes puzzles, monsters and enemies abound.
Not everyone she meets underground is out to kill or deceive her, though. A friendly beaver, an otter (called Fish Breath, no less!) and a bee join her on her quest. The storyline is fairly linear, as is expected of a dungeon crawl style adventure. There are, however, enough surprises to keep it interesting.
The reader is teased throughout by the notion that the antagonistic characters know a lot more about the true nature of the netherworld and Witch-Hazel’s quest than they are willing to share. With courage and a fighting spirit neither she (nor the reader) knew she had within her, she manages to unravel - at least part of - the mystery surrounding the Celestial Fragments. She also gets a glimpse of the All Being, the deity who created all Animals in this world.
What gives this story its charm are the little details, such as the concept of Nut Gathering Songs that Witch-Hazel sings to herself as she tries to stave off fear and hunger. The animal characters are all fully realized, each having the traits, motives and behaviourisms one would expect. They each have a purpose and each have their own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Some of these are realized; some of these are sadly not. The world of The Snake’s Song is tightly woven and though at times (intentionally) confusing, it all pulls together nicely at the end.
Whether you are familiar with the Labyrinth of Souls universe of not, you will find this novella an enjoyable, quick read that provides a glimpse into a well-developed fantasy world that begs further exploration. Highly recommended for lovers of high-fantasy (that crosses into the realm of mythology), those who love talking animal stories and those who enjoy DnD-style exploration and questing.