Victoria author Lee Danielle Hubbard is a newcomer to the Canadian speculative fiction scene. The poet and art history student’s first novel, Clan of the Dung Sniffers – yes, that’s really the title – is a complex and ambitious tale of misfits banded together in a conspiracy after inadvertently damaging the Radiance, the feathered icon symbolizing their world’s fallen third sun. The eight men who take the broken crest and struggle over how to mend and return it form a secret, though not exactly harmonious, clan. When one of their group is attacked by bees and begins growing feathers, the fractured group shatters. Some continue the quest to return the Radiance, others take off. It is only when they are able to resolve their differences that they are able to complete their mission.
Unfortunately, Hubbard’s reach often exceeds her grasp. Readers must wend their way uncertainly through a confusion of narrative voices, settings, and shifting timelines. The characters are over the top, even outlandish, perhaps in an effort to avoid stock fantasy stereotypes. As individuals, they are difficult to wrap one’s head around, particularly regarding motivation and development, leaving the reader few touchstones to rely on as the story progresses. Hubbard demonstrates admirable skill with dialogue and a strong descriptive style (though her world-building is even more outlandish and excessive than her characterization), but the novel’s pacing is uneven and problematic, and readers will be left frustrated by the book’s resolution.