Leo is used to living life on his own terms. He’s a man who enjoys his work and as the most feared assassin in the galaxy, it’s work he does well. Until he accidentally destroys the property of a powerful mrrog called Mastrodai. The two begin a game of cat and mouse that ends with Leo’s capture and exposure. In one brutal blow, he loses his freedom, his livelihood, and any hopes at at a future.
Mastrodai is unlike any other alien Leo has ever known. He practices restraint and offers affection rather than treating Leo like a slave, even when it means challenging his own people. But trusting someone, let alone loving them, terrifies Leo. It means giving up the last shreds of control over his own life. He will have to decide if caring for Mastrodai is worth the risk, because if he accepts that he might care for his alien lover, then he might have to accept losing him too.
Leopold is kinda a mixed bag. There’s a lot of good to be found, but at times it means wading through a mix of the boring and obnoxious.
The first fourth of Leopold really wasn’t necessary. It sets up Leopold’s backstory, but honestly that could have been done with a few paragraphs rather than multiple chapters. It leaves the start of the story bogged down with extraneous detail and some pretty slow moving action scenes. Once Mastrodai captures Leo, the pace definitely improves and I would say the rest of the book is fairly steady, though there is still a fair amount that could be trimmed from the story as a whole. Too much of it reads like filler rather than necessary to the overall plot.
Leo and Mastrodai are complex and fairly well developed characters. They aren’t always likable in their actions, but this does make them relatable and gives them an added dimension. I would say both characters are the book’s highlight and when they’re together, there’s an honest sweetness between them that I enjoyed. They only seem to be themselves when they’re with one another. The rest of the world gets a series of masks and none of those are as endearing as the reality.
Because this is a work of science fiction, we have to just accept a lot about the world the author has built. In some aspects, this is fine, but in others I was left wanting better explanations and more realistic actions on the part of the characters. Leo rails against losing his freedom, but bonds himself by oath to Mastrodai with almost no hesitation. Yes, you could say he’s forced into by the situation, but it just felt wrong for the character. And there are too many instances like this, where Leo especially is acting in opposition to everything were told about him. This made the overall story rather frustrating to read.
The characters are good in Leopold. Very good, and they are rendered with the kind of depth and emotion I love. But the story tends get bogged down in irrelevant information and has pacing issues during the first section. There does seem to be a sequel intended at some point and while I’m interested in what happens next, I hope the plot is tightened and some of the extraneous information purged, which would really let Leo and Mastrodai take center stage where they belong.