Thousand Leaves, by Kevin Frane
8/10, a thrilling story with great characters in a completely realized furry world
Disclaimer: Kevin is a friend of mine and I edited “Thousand Leaves” for Sofawolf, so I am admittedly somewhat biased. :) I read it a while ago, but because it’s just been released, I can post this.
Furry fiction lends itself to one of two main types of story: one in which the characters cannot stop obsessing over their “furriness” (whether good or bad), and one in which the furriness barely plays a role. It’s rare to find a world that is so internally consistent that the ramifications of a society composed of so many different species are apparent to the reader, but completely ordinary to the characters. It’s even rarer to find a good story set in such a world.
The world of “Thousand Leaves” is a multi-species community, at a level of technology roughly contemporary to ours. The city itself is a marvel of architecture and class distinction, with three levels separated from each other physically as well as by class. Reeve, one of the heroes of the book, has just come off a relationship that propelled him into the higher class briefly. He misses both the higher class and the relationship, but more importantly, he’s starting to feel that something is wrong with him. His ex, who has taken up with a new boyfriend, misinterprets Reeve’s attempts to warn him, even when some of their other upper-class friends start to get sick. Reeve has to turn to their mutual friend Monique and, in a strange turn of events, his ex’s new boyfriend, to get to the bottom of the disease.
To tell more about the plot would be to ruin the excitement of what is a tautly constructed thriller. The early part of the book starts slowly, introducing you to the ensemble cast and the spiderweb of relationships that connect them, while laying the groundwork for the medical thriller to come. Think of it as the clack-clack-clack of the roller coaster mounting the hill. Once you crest the hill–and you’ll know just where that is–the book doesn’t let you go.
Kevin has a terrific touch with character, which allows him to pull off the very tricky feat of having an ensemble cast with character arcs of their own. Each of the personalities in the book is distinct and well-realized, with marvelous dialogue between them. The real joy of “Thousand Leaves” is getting to know the characters, and that’s what gives an extra dimension to the medical thriller: you’ve come to truly care about the characters whose lives are at stake. That’s not to short-change his ability to describe the city or the pathos he plunges his cast into, nor the complex plot he has his characters navigate, nor the textured feeling of the world they live in. But the characters are the heart of this book, and a vibrant, engaging heart it is.
I don’t usually review Sofawolf books because I’m so intimately involved in the selection, edition, and production. And of course I’m going to say good things about our titles. But I’m particularly proud of having been a part of the release of “Thousand Leaves,” not only because it’s good for Kevin and good for Sofawolf, but because it’s such a great story and exemplar of what we look for in a furry novel. So take my review with a grain of salt, but give “Thousand Leaves” the benefit of the doubt. We wouldn’t be printing it if it weren’t a great book.