(This review is a cross-post of one I posted on the furry.engineer mastodon instance. I wanted to cross-post it here so folks here on the Lemmy side of things could see it as well.)

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass…” Wait, that’s not right.

“Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall…” Hmm, not quite.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Wait, no that’s not right either…

Ah, here we go! “The grey fox fled through the forest, her paws as quiet as an owl’s shadow…” and thus begins Joaquin Baldwin’s (@joabaldwin@mastodon.social) epic fantasy tale Wolf of Withervale, the first book in his Noss Saga series. In the first book of this already epic series, we find Lago Vaari and his friends, new and old, embark on the start a hero’s journey across the lands of Noss. Learning the secrets of an ancient and powerful mask, they come to discover that far more is at play in their world than any of them had expected. There is no doubt that a reader coming to it will find the story deeply engrossing, and absolutely looking forward to future books within the wider series.


The themes that Joaquin shows are rich in quality and variety, but all contain a very surprising amount of depth and realism as well. Starting off with the more obvious ones, the LGBT themes found in the book are numerous and varied. From showing Lago growing up and discovering his same-sex attraction, to showing how sexuality is handled by the varieties of people across the lands of Noss. In particular, with the character named Banook, we find a very accurate representation of bear culture and attitudes, as it relates to our own world. The irony of this is not lost, given he is an actual bear spirit himself! Further more, with regards to Banook, a depiction of naturism is found that does not always get shown this way in most literature. I am not sure if this was intended or not, but it is quite accurate and a welcome addition to an already rich and warm character. Having Lago explore his sexuality with Banook further adds to the wonderful depth of them both, and the themes presented with them.

Digging deeper, there are themes that run through Wolf of Withervale that will sit very close to the hearts of those that have explored Animism, Shamanism, or Therianism. I am unsure if this was wholly intended by Joaquin, but it means this book will likely hit deeper for many that might be initially expected. It is done so in a more theatrical way, but the themes explored are very real as they relate to our own world. Furries, of course, will find the themes of the book, and the entire series, to be very much so to their liking as well. There are also themes that transcend topics that might not be initially expected, such as cosmology and astronomy (with a friendly topping of in-world astrology too), explorations of spirituality and religion (not just relating to the themes of animism either), archaeology, geology, philosophy, culture, language, and more. This is just a preview of what the book explores, and I expect this list to grow more as the series progresses.


What Joaquin has crafted with the first book of the Noss Saga is absolutely spectacular, nay I think the word beautiful is truly the one way to describe the book in a single term. The world building and lore are spectacular, the themes are as varied as they are deep, rich in meaning and storytelling. The characters, both protagonists and antagonists, are deeply crafted with their own understandings and modus operandi, each adding their own unique thread to the story. Wolf of Withervale is a marvelous foundation for the Noss Saga series, and I can truly say that I cannot wait to see what is in store in the books to come!