by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Marking Territory, by Daniel Potter. Illustrated by Johanna T.
El Cerrito, CA, Fallen Kitten Productions, November 2017, trade paperback, $14.99 (381 pages), Kindle $4.99.
Marking Territory is Book Two in Potter’s Freelance Familiars fantasy series. There is no Synopsis or What Has Gone Before of the events of Book One, Off Leash. The Freelance Familiars series is recommended, but if you aren’t familiar with Off Leash, you won’t know what is going on.
For the record, the Kindle edition was published in July 2016, over a year before the paper edition.
The narrator is Thomas Khatt, a cougar who was a young unemployed librarian in Grantsville, Pennsylvania. Off Leash begins with Thomas’s next-door neighbor being killed in a suspicious hit-&-run “accident”, and Thomas being transformed into a mountain lion/cougar/puma. He learns that he has been transported to the “Real World”, and as an intelligent animal, he is expected to become a wizard or witch’s familiar; an involuntary magical assistant – in practice, a slave to a magus.
“Yet one thing had become crystal clear; I wanted no part of this world. Losing my thumbs, my house and my girlfriend in exchange for the chance to be sold off to some pimple-faced apprentice did not sound like a fair deal to me.” (Off Leash, p. 35)
To quote from my review of Off Leash:
“Thomas decides to take charge of his own life, even if he is not familiar with the Real World yet. He faces the dangers of our “world beyond the Veil”, of being a cougar loose in a San Francisco residential neighborhood, and of the Real World, refusing to join the TAU [Talking Animal Union] or to become bound to a magus – or to an apprentice – as a familiar.
“To stay off the leash, he’ll have to take advantage of the chaos caused by the local Archmagus’ death and help the Inquisition solve his murder. A pyromaniac squirrel, religious werewolves, and cat-hating cops all add to the pandemonium as Thomas attempts to become the first Freelance Familiar.” (blurb)
Off Leash ends with Thomas still a cougar, but he’s found and rescued his girlfriend, a werewolf (she’s more like a permanently furry wolf-woman) named Touch, and he’s won his independence as a freelance familiar. He’s become a familiar for hire – and if he doesn’t like his boss, he’ll go elsewhere. He’s satisfactorily bonded as the familiar of O’Meara, a magus who is the Inquisitor (police officer) of the Grantsville of the Real World, but who has been gravely wounded in a magical duel saving his life.
Marking Territory begins six months later. Thomas and Noise – her human name is Angelica – are having dinner at an expensive restaurant “beyond the Veil”, posing as elegantly dressed humans:
“Pity slipped into the waiter’s eyes as I gathered my scattered thoughts. Really, I wanted to savor this moment for as long as I could. Thanks to the Veil that blinded mundanes to any magically-induced weirdness, he surely saw a miserable wretch of a man slumped in a wheelchair despite the snappy tuxedo. I didn’t need pity, for this was a triumph! I sat at the table, instead of hiding under it like a pet. He couldn’t see my smile filled with teeth designed to crush the windpipes of a deer or the huge paws that awkwardly pushed on the armrests of the wheelchair in which I perched. Nobody but Noise saw the nearly three-foot long tail that protruded from the space between the back and the seat of the wheelchair.
No one could comprehend a reason for a cougar to come into their restaurant dressed in a tuxedo and sitting in a wheelchair. Therefore, logically, I must be a man. It was a trick I’d only been able to pull off on the internet or in a dark alley.” (p. 8)