A Feral Darkness by Doranna Durgin
Mass Market Paperback - 352 pages (May 22, 2001)
Baen Books; ISBN: 0671319949
Review by Ernest Lilley 2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu  
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

I like dogs but I'm wary of dog people. There are those who love dogs, and those who simply use them solely for profit, and while that may not be an evil thing, it goes against my grain.

A Feral Darkness has way too much detail about the world of dog grooming in it, but the characters are engaging enough to get you past the endless danger of getting bitten by a dog whose owners didn't bring him in soon enough to keep matts and tangles out of his hair.

Fortunately, there are bigger games afoot than dog grooming, and the author does remember that she started out on a pretty good note, picking it up about a third of the way through the book.

Brenna Fallon, lives alone on her old family farm. She's 27 and she's been there all her life. When she was nine, and her old hound dog was approaching a million in dog years, she happend on a magazine article about an ancient Celtic deity that liked dogs...and managed to bring all the elements together to  summon and bind him to a little spring in a meadow, and sustain her old hound friend for some time past his bedtime.

Then a bunch of drunken hooligans stumbled upon the sacred circle and stumbled upon darker powers that streamed out of the door that Brenna had opened. Light may come through a door, but sometimes darkness can pass as well.

Now things are going wrong in the town where Brenna lives. Dogs appearing mysteriously, a new strain of rabies on the loose, one that gives no warning before striking, the return of one of the hooligan's that desecrated her spring...and a mysterious stranger who's come to teach obedience classes at the shop where Brenna grooms.

Suddenly the world she thought she understood is falling apart, and her only hope lies in trusting a strange man and an equally strange dog, neither of which she can be sure of and both marked by darkness themselves.

Cats get a lot of play in the sci-fi and fantasy communities, for much the same reason that cactuses are the favorite plant of writers...they can take care of themselves, and are content with periods of attention and overlooking. Dogs do better with regular attention, so make poorer pets for a population of humans all enjoying some degree of ADDS, so it's only natural that they should get fewer books about them. They also posses less mystery, and unswerving loyalty fails to fit into the current literary milieu. More's the pity.

Doranna Durgin's story of dogs and demons is a pretty fair read, if you're a dog person or even if you're not...just don't let your cat catch you with it in the house.