I met Daniel Potter at BayCon 2018 and based on his pitch, gave Off Leash a try. The book took a bit to reach the top of my pile, but when I started reading, I expected to be entertained and wasn’t disappointed. This novel introduces a world in which magic and mundane exist on top of each other, the magic concealed with a veil created in early history by the Fey. The veil has the interesting property of extrapolating a mundane answer to display to those blind to magic based on cues from the magical people. This is not the only aspect of the world Potter builds I found intriguing either.
The writing has rough spots and the main character is everything I should find annoying, but between Thomas’ character growth once attaining his “true” self and the mix of a chirpy tone with heavy questions, it worked. I even enjoyed how Thomas (the first person main character) narrated events with a grumpy, often sarcastic, tone. Watching him come to terms with his new reality, and his reactions to the setup everyone magical accepted (no matter how reluctantly) as the way things should be were well worth the stumbles.
The description is creative and fun. For example, Thomas has to reinterpret everything about the town he lives in once he is transformed into a familiar. A puma might be coveted by the magi, but becoming one leaves much to be desired. He has to navigate a mundane world full of police officers and humans who find a large predatory cat disturbing all the while trying to figure out who is on his side, or at least not actively against him.
Despite my comment about rough writing, the plot seeding is well done. I could guess at some answers because of the clues left in the text and experienced Thomas’ confusion about who was trying to help or harm him as though I shared it. Without understanding the situation, he doesn’t know who to trust or whether the person “protecting” him from someone is working in his best interests. I’m avoiding names so you can have the same experience, but it was worth going through it to get a nuanced picture of the power struggles in the magic world.
Speaking of Thomas, he starts out as a whiny, sarcastic puma…who tries to eat other people when hungry (and the puma instincts overcome the person). He’s a self-proclaimed doormat, especially where his girlfriend is concerned. I could have stopped there, but at the same time, his base principles of loyalty and how to treat people are solid. From the first chapter, we see him holding a door for his elderly neighbor, for example, a simple act, but one not every person would bother with.
I think it’s obvious I enjoyed the book a lot, so I’ll leave with this: The resolution was better than I’d expected in some ways, on both the global and personal level, and yet it still worked within the book and the world nicely. The novel is both silly and campy. Thomas is really dumb at times, but his stubbornness, even when he doesn’t know what’s going on, makes things possible that weren’t before. I barely noticed the depth underlying the story because I was enjoying the world and fun tale, but it’s there when you want to see it.